Cecil J. Thompson
The promise of justice, faith, and hope are triplets of inspiration and powerful sources of our deepest aspirations. But recently in the United States and around the world the promise of justice etched in America’s democracy has come under great suspicion. Freedom-loving people everywhere are asking a poignant question. Why hasn’t George Zimmerman been arrested, the multiracial Hispanic Florida man who shot and killed 17-year old Trayvon Martin?
As hearts in many communities pour forth in this outcry and ask a factual question, listening ears hear at its core the echo of
Martin Luther King Jr.’s question in the 20th century: “How long until wounded justice be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?”
News cycles have been dominated by coverage of the case. According to a March 20, 2012 article in the New York Times entitled “A Florida Law Gets Scrutiny After a Teenager’s Killing,” Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American youth in Sanford Florida, was talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone and walking home just before he was gunned down.
Martin was on his way to the home of his father’s girlfriend. He had just left a convenience store where he purchased skittles and a can of iced tea which he was carrying. Martin told his girlfriend that a man was following him. Then, he told her he was being confronted. She told him to run; he said he would “walk fast.” Martin queried his pursuer: “Why are you following me?” The girlfriend, then, heard a distant voice ask: “What are you doing around here?” Shortly thereafter Trayvon’s voice faded and the killing occurred. Zimmerman, the shooter and neighborhood watch volunteer, claims he was acting in self-defense. Trayvon Martin’s attorney, Mr. Crump, does not believe the facts would support a self-defense claim.
But what has sparked the outcry in communities across the country and around the world is why the Sanford Police Department has failed to bring charges against and arrest George Zimmerman.
Initial reasons the Sanford Police gave range from his statement that he acted in self-defense to his “squeaky clean” record as a neighborhood watch person to his having studied criminal justice. These are strange reasons to give for the refusal of police to make an arrest in the case.
As someone who studied the law, in light of the evidence that Trayvon was being followed by Zimmerman, I believe the Sanford Police has sufficient “probable cause” to make an arrest in the case. “Probable cause” is defined as “a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime.” Zimmerman was actively pursuing Trayvon as he walked away and the young man ends up dead at the hands of his pursuer. One of the beauties of the American legal system and the spirit of democracy is that it upholds the promise of justice and we know that “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
Therefore, freedom-loving people of all races, backgrounds, and religions are raising their voices against this flagrant attempt to take away the promise of justice for the vulnerable. Justice is not just an idea but an intrinsic part of being itself (individual and collective); it is the affirmation of human-life valued in the deepest sense. So justice is a spiritual quality—an essential part of the state of the human soul— embedded in the Being that binds persons and community with cords of love. Justice in this sense is not a separate life/form of existence; it is a triplet of spirit; its sisters are faith and hope. Without faith and hope, justice is just an external form masquerading as truth.
How do faith and hope walk with justice? For justice to be itself in the spiritual sense, people must have faith in it! Faith is “confident belief.” The oppressed and the vulnerable, the powerful and the powerless, the disenfranchised, those discarded, rejected, and tossed into the rubbish bin of a thriving civilization should be brought to a point at which their faith in justice is restored and their lives wholly treasured.
Also, for justice to be itself in the spiritual sense, faith in the justice system must be capable of being transformed into a vibrant
hope. Hope means “To look forward to with confidence or expectation.” So here you have a two step process: 1) faith in justice which is confident belief in justice, and 2) hope in justice which is to look forward to justice with confidence and expectation. This two-step process is part of the life of justice as a spiritual quality.
So when we are inspired by justice, faith, and hope we are operating in a triple mystery that evades mind, but inspires and
enriches our lives. In that mystery, we go from confident belief to confident expectation. How can this be for us and the Martin Family when—in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.―prejudice is being allowed to blind the visions of men?
Those who hurt and are in distress like the family of Trayvon Martin, those discarded, the vulnerable, and everyone in society must be able to build confident belief in justice and the justice system that cannot be taken away from them. Then, they must be able to go on to confident expectation that justice will be done and that human life, worth, and dignity will always be
It has been reported that Trayvon Martin had wonderful aspirations. Those dreams have died with him. Many children have their own aspirations. But how can children live inspired lives to reach their goals in the spirit of justice, faith, and hope especially those in African-American communities, when they know that just around the corner might be the threat of
Our children can regain confident belief and confident expectation rooted in the triplet of inspiration if the promise of justice that pours out of the soul and becomes laws, policies, and the justice system will ensure that justice is done and history records it.