Why are people marching every night in so many cities across the country and across the world? Surely it is because an i-phone captured the truth of injustice and an institutionalized killing in broad daylight of a black man by a pack of police. Domination writ large on our television sets.
The worst part is that it was not an isolated incident—it was a reminder, a déjà vu, a trigger, of all the evil of slavery, the kidnapping of Africans, the middle passage and slave ships and capitalists and empires who made a killing with their slave ships and the slave system that made a killing growing cotton and the rest through forced labor.
It was also a reminder of the genocide to Native peoples that preceded the slave ships and left behind not only decimated tribes but trauma that gets passed on for generations.
And it triggered memories of Jim Crow and burnings and cross burnings and jailings and lynchings and black men who came back from fighting in WWI and WWII but were not welcomed or accepted but told to return to a second class citizenship. It awakens the trauma of all that that persists in the black community to this day. Inferior schools and fewer job opportunities and temptations to despair and broken families. And the cold facts of the numbers of black people dying of coronavirus at numbers far exceeding those of white people.
Injustice is not an abstraction. It kicks you in the gut. It hits you in the third chakra. That is also where compassion begins.
That is what the killing of George Floyd did—it hit humanity in the gut—and awakened our natural instinct in all of us for compassion and justice. We are all born with the instinct; and we are all in danger of surrendering it to other “values” such as being number one; being on top, climbing to the top, manipulating a system to get to the top, to dominate.
Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest moral thinkers of western culture, had a lot to say about justice and compassion. This is why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. invoked him in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail. Aquinas said that truth and justice go together—you lose one, you lose the other. You compromise one, you compromise the other. Justice does not survive except by way of truth. Politicians and media that traffic in lies are integral to oiling machines of injustice and racism.
Some truth is coming out now. And maybe some justice soon. People are marching for truth and justice. That is a powerful march.
Aquinas also taught that the “proper objects of the heart are truth and justice.” This is why people are marching, to let their hearts speak, the pain and the love deserves to come out and be on display.
See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 179, 211f, 337. 321-324.
See Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 101-131.
Banner Image: #BlackLivesMatter protest in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
What going on in the world these days kicks you in the gut and awakens your moral outrage?
How do you invest that fire we call anger so that it benefits the most people and does the least harm?