It is human to desire justice when one is wronged; “justice” is often couched in acts of revenge, and revenge is supposed to be relegated to God according to Christian scriptures, at least, but wherever and however it might come, people who have been wronged desire – and deserve – justice.
That is an understood principle of life except when it comes to African Americans. It is the strangest thing that so many people cannot understand and become insulted and angry when African Americans seek justice and are upset when that justice is elusive.
That reality struck a nerve when I read the words printed on a popular tee-shirt which is now being sold. It says, “We march, y’ll mad. We sit down, y’all mad. We speak up, y’all mad. We die, y’all silent.”
The indignation of so many at people “taking a knee” is a case in point. Those who are kneeling are simply making a statement that it is past time for there to be justice for African Americans, who are disproportionately arrested, convicted of and imprisoned for crimes, crimes for which many whites escape even a reprimand. African Americans are likewise disproportionately shot and killed by police officers, many to most of whom are not held accountable for their actions.
This is not a new phenomenon; it has been going on for years. African Americans have not been deemed worthy of fair treatment; in spite of the United States Constitution, which says all American citizens have the right to due process, and to have a speedy trial judged by a jury of their peers, that has seldom been the case.
Over and over, African Americans fight for justice, only to have the quest squashed in front of their faces in actions which say that this system and this country does not care about them. While others who are wronged – by another person or by the system – fight for justice and are encouraged to do so, African Americans are criticized for doing so.
What is up with that?
Just today, I read a story in the Washington Post about a young slave girl who had been repeatedly raped by her master. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/10/19/missouri-v-celia-a-slave-she-killed-the-white-master-raping-her-then-claimed-self-defense/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories-2_retropolis-1030am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.15ec59bae06a In spite a historically stated fear of white men about black men defiling the purity of white women, it has been more the case that white men have ravaged African American women and have gotten away with it. African American women were property and had no rights; there has been little they have been able to say or do to get justice against rapists who have disproportionately been white men.
The young woman in this story, Celie, had been raped repeatedly over the years by her master. When she had finally had enough, she got up the courage to ask him to stop – a request which he ignored – and when he advanced on her, she killed him and burned his body.
It is a gruesome story, but the history of her sexual abuse and identical sexual abuse by scores of African American women is equally as gruesome.
Celie confessed to killing her master, told the reason why and claimed her act was one of self-defense.
It didn’t fly. She was convicted of murder by an all-white, male jury, and was sentenced to hang.
There are so many – too many – cases of abject wrong committed against black people by white individuals and the system called racism, but when black people rise up and say, “no more!” there is outrage, indignation and disgust. What? Is it really the case that black people are expected to just shut up and take the injustice which is a part of their every day lives?
White people would never think of being quiet and just “taking” injustice. They would – and do – stand on the words of Constitution and the words of the Bible to demand justice. For them, it is the right action to take. To do less would be considered to be cowardice.
Then why do so many white Americans get miffed and insulted when black people seek justice? Justice is a human need. When a person has been wronged, and has not gotten justice, he or she does not have “peace.” That is not a racial reality; it is a human truth.
As the stories about sexual harassment against women swirl around, spurred by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, activists are saying that “men need to talk to men” about what is going on and what men need to do to change the narrative.
Likewise, white people need to talk to white people about this disconnect between the human need for justice and the tendency of too many white people to believe and to act as though black people are not entitled to it. There is a need for white people to talk to other white people and talk about how it is unnatural for any human being to be wronged and not want and expect justice, color and race notwithstanding.
It is time for the foolishness of racism and white supremacy to be reined in. No matter who wants to believe otherwise, African Americans are human beings with the same emotional needs as white people. Expecting African Americans to be silent and to acquiesce to an unjust system is not realistic, is not moral and is not logical.