Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson, UVA, and Our Cries for Justice

A couple years ago I was in the habit of visiting prisoners at Huntingdon State Penitentiary. I met some amazing gentlemen (and, I'll be honest, a couple creeps) for whom some poor choices as teenagers set them on the path to lifetime imprisonment in a stone cell in the middle of rural, central PA.

The most jarring, undeniable reality of that place was not the heavy, clanging doors that reverberated through the cold, empty halls. It was not the bleak, dehumanizing atmosphere of wasted lives at every turn. It was who was white and who was black. With no need for population counts, it was clear the majority of the prisoners were black or Latino and ALL the employees were white.


The news from this week that keeps bringing me to tears and to my knees helps shed light on the heartbreaking, garment-tearing, cover myself in ashes and scream for justice "WHY?!?!?!"

How can "Drew" from UVA, and men like him, who lure women into dark rooms to initiate and encourage brutalizing, soul-shattering gang rape, go on with their lives? How can this evil done at their hands be so easily silenced as these men become our lawyers, business leaders, and politicians?

How can black men continue to be seen as a greater threat than white men? Honestly, I do not know what justice in Ferguson would actually look like. The letter of the law and the rightness of a thing seem so often to be at odds. But what I do know is that our black brothers and sisters are not speaking out of a vacuum. Their pain over the ruling in Ferguson MUST be heard and NOT be dismissed.

As we look at these stories, it is clear that injustice runs rampant. Money is winning. Institutional racism is winning. Prestige is winning. Power is winning.

These two stories this week have awoken with vengeance that sick in the stomach feeling that I had whenever I returned home after visiting prisoners. It has reignited the anger that stems from the dissonance between what I saw on the other side of that barbed wire and the conviction that white men are no better (and no worse) than black men.

Injustice overwhelms. It's immense pressure either paralyzes us or makes us snap. A lot of people have snapped this week under the weight of injustice. And I praise God for that. May it lead to change. May it lead to justice for our nation's young black men and for our southern college girls alike.
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;
To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 
For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. 
(Isaiah 61)

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