The world and the blogosphere have been abuzz recently about a racial infraction that seems to have hit an archetypal nerve: A small Louisiana town, a “white’s only” tree in a high schoolyard, black students desiring parity and being threatened with nooses hanging in the tree. A rupture of deep-seated tensions, fights break out, white students get slapped on the wrist and black students get charged with attempted murder and thrown in jail.
As a human being, as a friend/follower of Jesus, and as someone married to an African-American woman, I am appalled by what happened in Jena, Louisiana. If you’ve been under a rock the past several weeks, you can review what’s been happening here. See also this informative (slightly dated, but in a good way–you’ll see) bit of guerrilla journalism from Philebrity TV (HT: Pilgrimguide):
I am glad that concerned people of all ethnicities have taken to the streets of Jena and are calling for justice. And yet as I observe what’s happening, I wish there was a higher way.
Rev. Al Sharpton, I guess it was last Thursday, called for “federal intervention to protect people from Southern injustice.” While I understand his sentiment (and I’m sure that of many others), I’m not sure that “federal intervention” is what we need. Justice goes so much deeper than retribution; it is reconciliation and restoration. Rev. Sharpton, I feel, is perpetuating a culture-war mentality that is so pervasive in politics and religion these days. But if you want the heart of an encrusted white southerner to change, calling for Federal injunctions against him might not be the best strategy. As Ben Reid, a Jena local (and an African-American) said, “You have good people here and bad people here, on both sides…what we ought to do is sit down and talk this thing out, ’cause once all is said and done and you media folks leave, we’re the ones who’re going to have to live here.”
So what would be an approach to “livable justice”? How can we draw out people’s highest impulses to produce not merely “rights” and an abatement of hostilities, but a celebrative, integrative community? Your thoughts?