With the verdict out on Trayvon Martin’s case, and a man walking free, there’s a cry for Justice. Race is powerful in today’s society, whether we choose to see it or not. As an Asian American whose only language is English, I’ve had my AP English teachers ask me if English was my first language, I’ve had an elderly black woman ask where I’m from–no really, where are you from?, I’ve had people shout out “That’s how we do things in America!” as I’m crossing the street (whatever that even means…), and I’ve seen the news broadcast just last week that claimed the pilots of the crashed Asiana flight were “Ho Lee Fuk”, “Wi Tu Low”, and “Bang Ding Ow”. Really, America? You decide that a plane crash is an appropriate time to make a racist joke out of Asian names on broadcast television (as if there were ANY appropriate time for such behavior)?
But worse than that, an unarmed (though apparently they claim the sidewalk is a weapon now…) teenage boy is dead. And his killer walks free. It’s true that the media loves to sensationalize, and no one knows exactly what happened except for Trayvon and George Zimmerman, but nevertheless, we know the system is huge and broken. So what now? What can we do?
This morning I heard a recounting of Dr. John Perkins’ talk at Reed College. He spoke about growing up black in Mississippi, and wanting to seek vengeance after his war vet brother was shot and killed by white police men at a movie theater. He spoke of being forced by his family to flee to California before his actions made him another “dead Perkins”. He spoke too, of finding faith through his son, and returning to Mississippi, not for violent vengeance, but to seek civil rights.
During one of his demonstrations, his students were arrested and carted away to the most racist county in the state. They called him, and he answered. When he arrived, Dr. Perkins, defenseless, was thrown into a police station’s windowless back room and beaten within an inch of his life. As they struck him again and again, he suffered a heart attack, and he watched his own blood spray and splatter the walls.
But “as I lay there at the feet of those huge, white police officers, I looked up into their faces…twisted with anger…immediately my heart was filled with compassion. Seeing them, all I could think was, “Dear Jesus, what pain these men must have endured in their lives to feel such hatred. Have mercy on them.”
I teared up when I heard the verdict, and I cried when I heard this story. We know what injustice looks like. Our hearts ache and cry out for wrongs to be punished, because we know that there is a cost for brokenness, and we know that somehow, it must be paid.
But as I listened to the story of Dr. Perkins, his blood on the walls, and a prayer on his lips, I immediately thought of another man, beaten, flogged, ridiculed, who also prayed for those who persecuted him, asking the Lord for their forgiveness, because they knew not what the did. And it was for him that I truly cried. To speak forgiveness for those who seek your life is radical. To choose to love and have compassion on them who spare no whip and grant no mercy on you is unheard of.
We know what injustice looks like. Our hearts ache and cry out for wrongs to be punished, because we know that there is a cost for brokenness, and we know that somehow, it must be paid. And this, Jesus, was the ultimate injustice. The innocent being found guilty, while the offenders walk free. While we walk free.
The story wasn’t over yet. “There is no hope,” Dr. Perkins continued. “There is no hope [for our broken communities], apart from the reconciling work of Jesus Christ.” Finally, when he was done speaking, the students gave him a standing ovation.
He has showed you, o man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8