The New …ism ?   Leave a comment

Recently I went to see the movie “Just Mercy.” The story is based on the book with the same name in which Brian Stevenson recounts how, after law school at Harvard, he follows his heart and sets up a law center serving death row prisoners in Alabama. The community he plans to serve is similar to the one in which he grew up. As he packs up his rather dilapidated car to drive to his new home, his mother expresses dismay that he is putting so much, including his life, at risk by embarking on this project. But he is resolute even when the office they have rented breaks their agreement when they learn of the work they are doing. Undeterred they begin work in a front room in the house of his administrator.

I don’t want to spoil the excellent movie by revealing too much of the plot, but the movie focuses on one particular death row inmate, Johnny-D, who is on death row simply because he, ” looks like someone who could kill someone.” As the story unfolds we learn that the evidence on which he was convicted is a tissue of falsehood, intentionally created. Little attempt is made to hide the blatant manipulation perpetrated and coordinated by the police department and the state’s attorney.  I will stop there to ensure that I do not spoil the movie, but I want to share with you some of the thoughts about the movie I have had subsequent to seeing it.

I was interested to note that the events portrayed in the movie occurred in or around 1993 which was the year I came to the United States with my family. I was shaken to see how recently unapologetic racism was rampant in that community; how fear and hatred of “those people” justified behavior so far from justice in a part of this nation that has become my home, and we proudly claim to be the leader of the free world.

One of the most significant moments in the movie for me came as the credits were giving updates on the characters in the story. A caption reported that the sheriff, who was personally responsible for much of the egregious conduct had been subsequently re-elected to head the police department multiple times and had only retired relatively recently. Does that mean that similar racial injustices were still, and maybe continue to be perpetrated by law enforcement in that community?

But there was one more devastating thought that came to mind as I contemplated the treatment given to “these people”  motivated by fear and consequent hatred. Time and time again they (African Americans) are characterized as being “criminals and drug addicts and a danger to our children”! But wait, have I not heard those words recently here in Pacifica? Of course, in politically correct California, it is unthinkable that this could be said about anyone ethnically different than ourselves (forgive my sarcasm!). No, but this is exactly the judgment that is being passed on the homeless by many right here in our city. Could it be that, although we have made a great deal of progress in our attitude to those of different races, we have turned our blanket, uninformed rejection on another segment of our community? What do you think? How can we, as followers of Jesus, be seen to be different?

Posted February 3, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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