A Lament for Justice

I have seen a lot of responses to the recent verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Many of the responses have expressed outrage, sadness, and a host of other emotions and opinions about this unfortunate story. I have also seen many people make statements of being unsurprised by the outcome, and this bothers me, immensely.

As I read these statements, mostly on social media but also in other printed press, it seems to me as if these claims of being “not surprised” is in some ways an attempt to avoid the reality of injustice. It is likely an attempt to dissipate the other feelings we may have as we try to cope with the outcome, but I do not share the notion that we should be unsurprised. What does it mean in the struggle for justice, to speak about acts of violence and oppression as though it is too normal for us to expect anything different? Yes, injustice is common, and people suffer at the hands of it far too frequently, but does that mean we should no longer be surprised to learn of it? I am not interested in participating in the continued normalization of injustice. Just because it can be expected and just because it happens over and over does not mean that I have to accept it as a way of life. I will not give in to the enormity of injustice and say it is too great, that it is all we can expect. I refuse to think this way, and I know that there is another way to live in this world.

To speak of the outcome of this case as unsurprising allows other horrific events to be unsurprising, and it makes the work of striving for peace and reconciliation that much harder. We cannot run the risk of capitulating to the existence of violence. Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die, and there is much we can do to ensure that other children and every vulnerable person is better protected from acts of power. George Zimmerman was a man with more power and privilege than that child, even without being armed, and a host of socio-cultural norms provoked him to make a series of decisions that day that led him to take a child’s life. These norms are what we must work against, and we cannot become accustomed to unnecessary suffering and death. I do not want to become numb to injustice. I do not want to be unsurprised by violence or hatred.

I understand the varied reactions and responses to this case, and I do not wish to judge others’ emotions. But I pray, I plea, that those who find themselves unsurprised by this outcome look at that response – can it lead you to act for the sake of peace? Can we all take this moment and consider what we can do to heal our communities, our nation, our world, and stop injustice from being normal?

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