The Thin Line Between Justice and Peace
Jul 14, 2013

The Zimmerman verdict, and the ever-waning patience of Blacks in America

Late on Saturday night, the world learned of the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder (or manslaughter) of Trayvon Martin. The words: NOT GUILTY. Their sound echoed in the disbelief-filled cries of people across the country who had maintained hope, against the backdrop of shoddy legal work and subjective burden of proof, that some form of balance would be reached on behalf of a family and nation in mourning. This, even after those of us who sometimes confuse cynicism for realism, had many doubts of a verdict that would somehow restore Black America's shaky faith. That 6 women would find the killing of a teenager out just after dark for a snack could be legally wrong, especially when the morality and righteousness of Zimmerman's actions were always deeply troubling. That they might see Trayvon's face in those of their own children, family, community. That the killing of a defenseless boy by an armed man deserves punishment, regardless of the ethnicity of either party.

The image I've chosen for this week's blog is associated with a famous rap group, but its symbolism makes a far more profound statement about the reality of justice in our nation. As long as we allow ourselves to quietly accept the perception that Blackness--literally, on its face--equals danger and warrants more scrutiny, policing, prosecution and incarceration because of the inherent "damage" within us, the roll call of names of the souls who've perished at the hands of those wielding "justice" will continue to grow exponentially. Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, James Byrd, Yusef Hawkins, and on and on.

This cannot be our destiny. The time for rebellion is drawing near, but it cannot be before an infrastructure is put in place to support the inevitable repercussions. Ask the people of Haiti what it is like to have waged war against oppression, only to fall victim to extreme poverty, corruption and global ostracism as a result. Picking back up the sword and shield that were naively surrendered after the Civil Rights Movement will be met with backlash. The problem is that today, there is no one truly in fear of real revolution from Black America. Today, in our homes and from our organizations, there is only loud talk or stunned silence.

If our rallying cry is "No Justice, No Peace," then we must be prepared to embody the threat in those words. And while I do not advocate the taking up of arms and sacrificing even more blood in the streets because of centuries (or even millennia) of injustice, I do believe that we are ever closer to the moment when Black people must shout out "Enough" and mean it. Justice, then peace. In that order.

Here is last week's playlist: