Friday, December 5, 2014

#BlackLivesMatter, Part II

As I grow older, I become certain of one thing. It's a dumb idea to post controversial things on Facebook. Which is unfortunate, because if you know me you know I get a kick out of lighting fires and discussing controversial topics. And I guess it's amusing to me because I'm usually not personally invested. I try to avoid speaking about issues important to me unless I'm with like-minded people, because I'm not so good at staying calm when it comes to issues that have captured my heart. 

As a person who is working towards a career in the legal system, and a person who is here out of a conviction that the way immigrants are being represented in our system and in our country is unjust, my heart is already heavy over the ways the legal system is failing the poor, marginalized, and oppressed. But the events of the past few weeks, filtered through the lens of my ongoing legal training, have wrecked the dam of passivity in me.

We spoke in my criminal law class about imprisonment rates in the United States, and in particular the disproportionate representation of minority males in the system. Incarceration of black males has increased 500% since the early 90s, and 1 in 5 black males will spend time in prison in their lifetime. Serving prison time is a higher statistical likelihood for a black male than going to college is. And my classmates recited these facts pulled from our readings with grim looks on their faces, and many expressed hopelessness that they could do anything to change a problem that was inherently systemic.

So it was fitting that as I walked out of my school this evening I walked right into a protest. I've never been to a protest before, like, not a real protest, so curiosity pulled me into the fray, where I stood on the sidelines and took photos along with the other bystanders who had originally wandered onto the Commons for the tree lighting. I called Hannah and told her of the nagging hypocrisy I felt. "Ideologically, I stand with these people, I support them and endorse what they're doing, but I don't want to join them. Is that wrong?" I watched the tree lighting and walked to the train, satisfied that I had witnessed a piece of history unfolding tonight.

But I had a realization.

There is no room for silence here. There is no room for quiet endorsement. There can be no passivity because this is not a small, negotiable issue. This is not right

Luckily I was right there in the middle of an ongoing protest, so it was easy to put my feet where my mind way. And being there, shifting from observer to participant, marching and standing in solidarity with the people willing to shine the light on social injustice, it felt empowering. Class warfare and police brutality and racism are all huge issues, issues that stem directly from the sin that infects this world. Issues that can only be healed by Jesus. But I can be part of His ministry of reconciliation. I can stand with them. I can walk with them and assert that there is injustice and it is real and it is not okay. I can assert that publicly, and boldly, and that's doing something.

I have been embarrassed, embarrassed of my previous blindness, obliviousness, and indifference, embarrassed because of my white privilege, for who am I to speak out against something I know so little about? It's controversial and I don't want to say anything, don't want to make myself a target, don't want to be misunderstood. But if I don't say anything, in my silence I am no so different from an oppressor. If I really believe there is racial discrimination in my country's legal system, and I really believe that's wrong, then I have to say so. I have to.

I have a duty to speak for those who are not being heard. 

This is what the Lord requires. To walk humbly, to love mercy, to do justice. 


Catherine Mullaney said...

I have a title for your next post regarding your ongoing experience as a student of the law awake and engaging with what is happening right now around the issues of race and the injustice some of our fellow citizens are experiencing: "More than a #" I am so proud of you Hayley as I am sure your family is as well. Love, CM

Nicole said...

Preach it sister. It's hard to stand up for what's right. You inspire me.