Can There Be Justice if There Is Not Justice for All?
June 19th is a unique day in the history of our country. There was two-year delay between the signing of emancipation proclamation in 1863 and the news of emancipation proclamation being delivered in 1865 to persons being held as slaves in Galveston Texas. The delay is also a reminder that proclamations, no matter how eloquently stated, will not bring about change. Change requires each of us to do some work and make a commitment to change. Therefore, Juneteenth is a day for us to acknowledge the painful history of our nation, reflect on the progress made, and recommit ourselves to the work we still have before us. Recent events have focused attention on disparities that are still racially defined. The issue is not, as some would assert, do you support the police or young black men. This issue has never been either/or, but always a both/and. We can fully support the police while demanding that all citizens be treated with dignity. Exposing and acknowledging racial injustice is essential to ensuring justice for all.
As a white man, I do not have to accept personal responsibility for the actions of racists who mistreat their brothers. But, as a white man, I do need to recognize the privilege I and other white men have historically enjoyed. Only white men have not needed special legislation or Constitutional amendments to be afforded full rights – including the right to speak freely and the right to vote. Women and minorities have required such special legislation to enjoy these basic rights. Therefore, it is my responsibility to first acknowledge this truth, and also to use my privilege to ensure that the enacted legislation becomes a reality for all.
Today, more than ever before, we are called to heed the words of the prophet Micah to all humanity: “Act justly, Love mercy and Walk humbly with your God.” Some want to politicize the words justice, mercy and love. But these simple commands are neither liberal nor conservative. These words are the answer to a question posed by the people of Micah’s time: what is it that God wants from me? The Message version of the Bible interprets these words as “Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love…”
None of us can solve the problem of injustice by ourselves, but each of us can heed the words of the prophet and insist that all citizens are treated justly. So, today I will reflect and ask the questions: what does justice look like in my community; and where do I need show mercy to ensure that there is truly justice for all.