Where Injustice Lies

Image result for micah 6.8 word art“(Justice) cries out in the streets; in the squares she raises her voice.  At the busiest corner, she cries out; at the entrance of the city gate she speaks: ‘How long, O (crooked ones will you love being crooked)?’”[1]

No matter where we are or where we find ourselves, there are cries for justice.  The sound cannot be avoided, tuned out, talked over or talked down.  More than background noise or elevator music, these cries will go on record, disproving that our lives are as comfortable as the sounds that we surround ourselves with.

The cries for justice do not harmonize well with the voices of capitalism, materialism or racism.  No quartet there.  No possibility of a record deal or a break out hit.

The sound wraps around us like yellow crime scene tape, screams like sirens rushing to the scene, like family members given the news that no one wants to hear that is then reported at 6 and again at 10 and again at 6.  It captures our attention and becomes our cycle, our pattern as the news is covered with violence.  It is one long, mass shooting, one burial after another.  And in between each commercial break, we find that we are burying something of ourselves too.

We are covered by violence, wrapped up, tangled up, tied up, ensnared by it.  Yes, we are all in this net together.  Knots and strings, we are pulled on and rendered immobile all at the same time.  Trapped by violence, we cry out for justice— to make it stop, to still the hands that pin ours down.  “Let my fingers go!”

Whether raised or thought reaching, they are taken down.  No more protesting there.  Another voice lost so justice must scream louder.

So, no matter the sounds that would crowd our ears, there is one sound that climbs through the clamor, that pushes its way through the noises that would distract us, that keeps coming to forefront of the conversation—no matter how often it is pushed back, shouted down, ignored and dismissed and it is the cry for justice.  Not to be confused with whining, it is a lament, a familiar composition of grunt and sigh, a consistent moan that causes the head to sway and the earth to tremble.  It is a mix of grief and guts, pride and passion, loss and the need to live freely, unencumbered, unsupervised and without the disruption of flashing lights.

It is a wail, somber and yet strong, like the marching of feet on city streets, blocking traffic and interrupting commerce.  She will not be pushed aside but she will be heard.  She will have her say and so she says it over and over again.  “Justice!  Justice!  Justice!”

She says her name and it bears repeating for persons will assume that because she is present that her practice of fairness and equity is too.  But, it is not enough to say, “Justice.”  Justice doesn’t look good on paper; it is not her best side.  Instead, she prefers natural settings like institutions, organizations, governments and personal relationships.  She prefers group pictures— not posed with good lighting.

If accountability and fairness are there, she smiles and says, “Justice.”

The word only causes anxiety for those who do not seek it.  They don’t want to hear it for it is a reminder of their hollowness, their hubris, their hypocrisy.  They like the word but prefer the benefits of injustice.  They put it on their resume without reference, speak of it without relationship and name it as the perfect candidate with no intention of electing it.  Injustice lies comfortably on the bed of assumption and the conviction that those who need justice will wait for it instead of working for it.

***

Thomas Watson, a 17th century Puritan minister wrote, “Injustice lies in two things: either not to punish where there is fault or to punish where there is no fault.”  His words remind me of the case of Freddie Gray while in police custody.  His death was ruled a homicide and yet, they could find no murderers.

In times like these, I am reminded that there are at least two sets of laws, two justice systems, two juries.  There is also one unspoken punishable offense: blackness.  There is also one defense that has proven victorious time and time again: whiteness.  “If you’re white, you’re right.”

But, punishing people for the racial crime of not being socially colored white and therefore, one of the good people, one of our people is wrong.  Life is not about “protecting our own.”  Life was not created to be lived selfishly but abundantly.[2]

Supporting a system of race that constructs light and dark people, right and wrong people, in and out people, center and marginalized people and rations out social privileges and burdens based solely on appearance is wrong.  Believing in this social righteousness that rewards those who, before their first breath, receive value above all other human beings is wrong.  Unearned privileges for some and undue burden for others is an unjust system.

Justice requires that these scales and others fall from our eyes, that these scales be balanced.  Now, the people fall apart, then the system self- destructs, the country topples and the rubble of government buildings become the pavement for another kingdom.  So, listen up, “Justice cries out in the streets.”

_________________________

[1] Proverb 1.20-22, NRSV

[2] John 10.10

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