At CTS, we learn from each other through discussions – and sometimes even disagreements. To that end, we are pleased to share with you reflections on issues of justice from our entire community.
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Stand Up for Justice
by Richard McKinney (MA student)
Chicago (photo credit: The Chicago Reporter)
“No justice! No peace!” I joined in the chant that was taking place at the National Moment of Silence 2014. I had decided at the last minute to attend because I wasn’t busy. To be honest, I had never actually gone to a protest like this, even though I am fond of activism and frequently speak out against privilege. I don’t know whether I just hadn’t had the time or if, perhaps, I had never been this angry before.
I was angry that I had to live in a world where lynching still occurs. I was angry that I had to walk through life knowing what had happened a century ago wasn’t my fault, but my complacency to change anything was. I was angry that my life seemed to matter more because I was white. I was angry plain and simple. And I’m still angry.
I arrived to Daley Plaza and looked around at the number of people. The turnout wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was still early. I grabbed a sign and stood with the crowd showing people that black lives matter. That all lives matter.
I have been in seminary for a year now and being exposed to white privilege and how it is nothing like the kindom of God as seen in biblical texts. But really, we shouldn’t need a biblical grounding to not treat people with violence. This is a pretty common sense thing. We, however, do not live in a society that can adequately embody what it’s like to view everyone equal.
From what I can tell, it seems like there are people and then there are People. The people are the ones who are technically granted all the same rights and civil liberties, but the People are the ones who are able to actually take advantage of those right and civil liberties.
We live in a society and system which can only function when there’s someone to oppress. We were founded on principles which are meant to keep people down and treat them as less than. We know nothing of what peace actually looks like. We know nothing of what justice can actually be. We have contorted what justice is a long time ago.
No, our system is not exceptional. No, our system is not great. Our system is broken. Our system has never been fixed. It’s never functioned at full capacity. Our system: this society of systemic racism, the continued perpetuation of oppression, cannot and will not end until we have all had enough.
The sad part is it’s going to be incredibly difficult to reach that place. Because all of us know that deep down, it feels great to be privileged. And our system rewards it time and time again. The competition myth that is so deeply ingrained in our psyche is destroying us. It’s not “terrorists” we need to worry about. No, it’s our own forms of ‘justice.’ Our own places of ‘peace’ that we need to examine. Where can anyone go in this country to find an ancient relic of hope and care? Where can we go to find a bond and closeness to our fellow human? When will it end? How many unarmed people have to die?
At 6:20, the moment of silence officially began. We would be holding hands with those around us, raising them in the air for 4 minutes - one minute for each hour they left him lying there. I knew this wouldn’t be an easy task. We held our hands up and, as I imagined, my arms started to shake a little and slowly creep down. But, the person standing next to me, who I didn’t know, grabbed my hand tighter and invited me to join in the pain. He silently raised my arm back up and showed me the purpose of why we’re there. To rise together.
This life isn’t meant to be lived on hands and knees. We are all meant to carry each other. That’s what I was doing there. Yes, I was standing in solidarity for the injustices that have been committed against black people since America has been America. Yes, I was there listening to stories about an everyday war zone this country has created for black people. But, more importantly, I was there because my liberation is deeply connected to the liberation of every other person. I was there because no one is free from shackles unless we all are.
This is why I stand with Mike Brown. I don’t have to worry about being used for target practice. I don’t have to worry about whether or not today will be the day I am inevitably shackled and taken to jail. I get the luxury of living life relatively peacefully. I get the luxury of fighting back without fear that it could lead to my death. This is why I stand up. I am armed with hope and resolve that this violence will end one day. I charge on knowing that we can rise together. But, the sad part is, me fighting back isn’t seen as threat. A black person shouldn’t have to be an honor student or college bound for them to be seen as valuable. Stand up! Stand up for justice!