Speaking Up For Justice

There comes a time when silence is betrayal.
— Martin Luther King Jr.

I was planning on posting a blog today that spoke about benefits of live shows/concerts, but it seems trite in light of the social injustice issues facing our nation. My heart goes out to the friends and family of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I am writing this post, summarizing my feelings and beliefs, because I believe silence is not the answer. I cannot relate to feelings of oppression, but I believe I have a voice. I believe that social justice should be upheld, particularly by those in position of power.

I was not at the scene of either of these murders. I do not know every detail. I cannot see into a man’s heart, and I cannot project feelings onto those officers responsible. What I do know is that it is wrong to assert power and brute force over someone due to fear, judgment or hatred. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway... it is obviously wrong to murder. And it begs the question of why would someone do this? Would the cops do the same if the man was white?

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
— Martin Luther King Jr.

I do not know the answers to those questions 100%, but I know that racial slander and social injustice has long plagued our nation. Taking a life purposefully, without just cause, is wrong. African Americans have long been oppressed, abused and ostracized by white Americans. And that is abhorrent.

I have never in my life experienced oppression. My ancestors did not experience it. I do not have a lineage of experience with pain, social injustice and exclusion from the privileges of society that others enjoyed. Because I cannot relate to these issues, I am sometimes hesitant to speak out on them. I do not want to appear a hypocritical imbecile or ignorant fool. But I do have a heart, and a voice. While I cannot relate, I can seek to understand, to show empathy, and to speak up.

I was recently in Chicago, and visited the “Invisible Man” display at the Art Institute of Chicago. It is a powerful gallery of photographs and texts, created from collaborations by Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison from 1948/ 1952. It depicts segregation and racial injustice—it tells a story and begs you to listen. I was impacted by the intensity of the images and the descriptions of how people felt, and street signs designating separation of white and black. My heart does not understand how anyone could ever deem this acceptable.

People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.
— Martin Luther King Jr.

Power in the wrong hands is very dangerous. The position of leadership and power is a privilege. It is not meant for everyone. I want to acknowledge that I appreciate the police officers who do uphold the standards of social justice, who treat all people equally and with the respect they deserve. But the point of this post is to address those who let fear and prejudice rule their thinking. I believe they should be punished severely for these actions. A good leader should exemplify grace, humility and love for others.

I wish that we would develop more tests in the police academy, not just of personality, but of belief structures. We need to more closely examine the racial, philosophical and anthropological beliefs people have before allowing them to graduate from the academy. I wish that we would consider the importance of what power and fear do to a person, and carefully examine who we allow to protect our cities. Perhaps it would help to weed out those who do not uphold equality for all. 

Living with fear and hatred is hard on your soul. It is not how we are meant to live. While I do not have all the answers, I do care. I will stand up for social justice. I will continue loving the best that I can. I will continue learning more about cultures unique from mine. I will listen. I will promote love over fear and grace over power. And I hope and pray that others will do the same. 

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.
— Martin Luther King Jr.