"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King
The word has been spoken and written more in the past two weeks than I can recall in my lifetime. The cry for it has been loud and consistent.
The principle is a foundational element of our humanity, established at the beginning of our very existence. No society can survive without being just.
The senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and countless others before them, have moved our hearts and grieved our collective soul. They lanced a 400-year-old wound that like a continually picked scab, has over time become infected and must be given the opportunity to heal.
But all of that is meaningless, unless they serve as a call to true action.
Americans need a shared vision of justice and human flourishing for all people that moves us beyond party, tribe, and race. But, how do we get there?
The place to start is in understanding that Justice alone is not the answer. Justice without Mercy is punitive. Justice with Mercy is restorative. Justice must be accompanied by Mercy.
Justice and Mercy; Truth and Love are, and must remain, inseparable. We at One Heart are committed to ensuring these critical liberties are afforded to every individual regardless of race, color or background.
While it seems as though every organization on the planet has rushed to send out a response to the current racial turmoil on social media, it’s not just about a response. It’s about a responsibility.
Sir Edmund Burke is purported to have stated in 1770 that, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This truth, which is one of my favorites, was repeated by President John F. Kennedy during a speech in 1961. It was as powerful 200 years later, as it is today, after another 60 years has passed.
We have to do something.
Our words and our prayers are important. Yet, words without actions are dead. Our words and prayers, and even our ideas for change, must be accompanied by action – action that reflects Justice and Mercy, Truth and Love.
Yes, we must commit to speak up and take action to fight injustice, inequality, and discrimination. Yes, we must speak out for a society that values everyone equally. But more than that, we must share our lives with those who are hurting, mistreated, and abandoned. We must step into their circumstances and do something to help them.
The personification of justice is found in the statue of Lady Justice, with scales in one hand and sword in the other… and blindfolded. The blindfold is there to represent that justice is blind even to skin color. The current system of justice may not be entirely blind, however, as it disproportionately affects people of color.
At One Heart, we see this systematic oppression of people of color and minorities on a daily basis, working with justice-involved youth that are primarily black and brown. We are keenly aware of the disadvantages many of them face. Our team is deeply committed to the youth we serve and works tirelessly to provide them with resources and relationships to help them get on a different pathway. And when they choose a more righteous direction, it truly is a beautiful thing to experience.
The makeup of our team is representative of our culture. We are black, white, brown; male and female; millennials, boomers and everything in between. We come from all aspects of the socio-economic spectrum. We have some who have seen justice from the inside of a prison cell, and others who have never even been pulled over by a police officer. In each county where we work throughout the U.S., the populations we serve, and the officials we work with, are all equally as diverse.
As diverse as we are, we are bound by a common mission and a great respect and care for one another. “Success” in this work is not possible unless we are all pulling in the same direction, and unless we are working collaboratively with other partners, who also reflect the colors and tastes of our culture. As our team has worked together within our common vision, we have enriched each other, and learned from each other, all while helping some youth find a better way. While we don’t have all the answers, we have more of them together than we could ever have individually. And, we are making strides in providing positive solutions for our youth – solutions that show these youth their lives matter.
Getting to these solutions requires Justice and Mercy, Truth and Love. And action.
Blindfolded or not, Justice, in fact, doesn’t demand we have all the answers. It simply asks that we change the world by affecting whatever we can, with whatever we have, wherever we are.