“What is it in us that seeks the truth? Is it our minds or is it our hearts?
I set out to prove a black man could receive a fair trial in the south, that we are all equal in the eyes of the law. That’s not the truth, because the eyes of the law are human eyes — yours and mine — and until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be evenhanded. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices, so until that day we have a duty under God to seek the truth, not with our eyes and not with our minds where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice, but with our hearts — where we don’t know better.
Now I wanna tell you a story. I’m gonna ask ya’all to close your eyes while I tell you this story. I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves.
This is a story about a little girl walking home from the grocery store one sunny afternoon. I want you to picture this little girl.
Suddenly a truck races up. Two men jump out and grab her. They drag her into a nearby field and they tie her up, and they rip her clothes from her body. Now they climb on, first one then the other, raping her, shattering everything innocent and pure — vicious thrusts — in a fog of drunken breath and sweat. And when they’re done, after they killed her tiny womb, murdered any chance for her to bear children, to have life beyond her own, they decide to use her for target practice. So they start throwing full beer cans at her. They throw ’em so hard that it tears the flesh all the way to her bones — and they urinate on her.
Now comes the hanging. They have a rope; they tie a noose. Imagine the noose pulling tight around her neck and a sudden blinding jerk. She’s pulled into the air and her feet and legs go kicking and they don’t find the ground. The hanging branch isn’t strong enough. It snaps and she falls back to the earth. So they pick her up, throw her in the back of the truck, and drive out to Foggy Creek Bridge and pitch her over the edge. And she drops some 30 feet down to the creek bottom below.
Can you see her? Her raped, beaten, broken body, soaked in their urine, soaked in their semen, soaked in her blood — left to die.
Can you see her? I want you to picture that little girl.
Now imagine she’s white.
The defense rests your honor.” – Jake Brigance, A Time to Kill
My mind keeps going back to this part of the movie A Time to Kill. Ever since the first time I saw this movie, this closing argument guts me. It brings me to tears, and it should. I feel like those of us that can’t relate need to go back to this. The best way to try to relate to someone is to put yourself in their shoes. That’s what Jake Brigance does here. He knew that in order to get other white men and women to be able to relate to the actions of Carl Lee Hailey in this movie was to have them put themselves in HIS shoes and imagine how THEY would react if they were him.
So I’m asking all of you reading this to start there. Let’s start this conversation outside of ourselves and in the shoes of blacks in the US.
Imagine the anger you would feel, imagine how desperate and helpless you would feel, imagine how scared you would feel if this was your NORMAL, if this was your REALITY.
I can’t even begin to relate to that. BUT, I can tell you this, I can try my best to put myself in their shoes. Those shoes are heavy, worn, tired, and fed up. I would be ANGRY. I’d probably first start to protest with my voice. But then I’d be told that I couldn’t protest that way. If I was a celebrity I’d try to protest publicly and on stage when I had a platform to be the voice of my race. But people would tell me I can’t have those conversations on air, that they aren’t appropriate. I’d be dismissed and silenced again. So maybe as an athlete in this community I’d protest by taking a knee during an anthem that doesn’t pertain to me and my race because we aren’t actually equal, we aren’t actually free. But I’d be told I most definitely can NOT protest this way.
After hundreds of years of things not changing, of not being heard, of not feeling safe, of not being treated equally, of being judged by the color of my skin before anything else, of being afraid to go to the store, afraid to go for a run, afraid for my children to go into the world, I would feel there was NO OTHER WAY TO BE HEARD than to ACT OUT! Would they hear me NOW!?!? Is THIS what it takes?!?
What if every looted item during these riots represents the stolen life of a black person that was hung from a tree?
What if every broken window represents the broken heart of a mom who has lost her black son or daughter because of the color of their skin?
What if every burning building, place of business, or car represents the burning of a cross in a black person’s front yard or the burning of a black church, home, or place of business?
What if every person screaming at the top of their lungs is a black man or woman screaming for help during their last minutes of life?
What if every person showing up of ALL races represents every person over the past 400 years that can’t be there to represent themselves?
Think about that.
Look at what’s happening across this country from a different lens, a different perspective.
You know what can be replaced? THINGS!
You know what can be rebuilt? CITIES!
You know what can’t be replaced? A HUMAN LIFE
You know what rises from the ashes? A PHOENIX. It represents transformation, death, and rebirth in its fire. That’s what our country needs. That’s what blacks are asking for, A TRANSFORMATION OF CULTURE. A TRANSFORMATION OF BEHAVIOR. A CHANGE. A rebirth of humanity. HOPE for a safer and better future for themselves, their children, and all blacks that come after them in this country.
So, I ask you this, imagine George Floyd was white. Imagine Ahmad Abrey was white. Imagine that white men and women had been enslaved, silenced, discriminated against, killed, tortured and their voices crying for change ignored for 400 years! Imagine that this was still happening TODAY. How would you act? What could you possibly do to make sure you are heard when nothing else has seemed to work? I truly CANNOT know what it’s like to be black, I’ll never be able to, but I can sure as hell try my best to empathize.
I’m in tears and this isn’t even about me personally. But it IS about me! It’s about all of us. You can say “I wasn’t raised like this.” Well, I have a shocker for most of us, WE ALL WERE! The media we have consumed on tv, in movies, in books, our entire lives has trained us without us even knowing it. The behavior we still let go on and let keep happening like it’s okay when we see it on the news has trained us. The fact that we immediately call the cops on a black person assuming they are there to harm or hurt us solely because they are black, this is something that we have been trained to think is okay. Thinking that mass incarceration of blacks is their fault and not part of a broken system exposes our training. Each time we stay silent and don’t use our privilege to support those that aren’t privileged to have their voices be heard, we are in the wrong. We must speak up, we must act, and we must brave the wilderness of the norm that has been accepted in this country and fight for better, vote for better, raise our kids to be better. It will take all of us to change the systemic problems in our culture and in our systems. So, as Jake Brigance said, “until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be evenhanded. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices, so until that day we have a duty under God to seek the truth, not with our eyes and not with our minds where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice, but with our hearts — where we don’t know better.”
LET’S EXPOSE THE TRUTH FOR WHAT IT IS, LET’S EXPOSE OUR PREJUDICES, AND LET’S ACT WITH OUR HEARTS FOR WHAT IS RIGHT SO THAT WE CAN RISE FROM THESE ASHES AND BEGIN THE ROAD TO CHANGE!
With a very heavy heart, I’ll leave it here for now.