Favorite

Weighing justice 

Martin Luther King asked, "Where do we go from here: chaos or community?"

click to enlarge THE ALL-NITE IMAGES VIA CREATIVE COMMONS
  • The All-Nite Images via Creative Commons

A plumb line is a simple but accurate tool used for determining whether something is perfectly vertical or upright. Used since ancient times, a plumb line consists merely of a line and a weight of some sort, at first just a stone, but later a weight made from lead. In the Biblical text we often find the plumb line employed as a metaphorical tool to measure the level of justice and a level of rightness in a particular society or nation. The dutiful prophet Amos, a mere shepherd and tree-pruner, had the unenviable task of telling a nation and the powers that were: You have been adjudged negatively. It was an unpopular message from an insignificant person. But Amos didn't have a popular calling, he had a pertinent calling.

In 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, America's prophetic voice, was perhaps the most unpopular and silenced leader in America. Universally panned for his criticism of the war in Vietnam (he called America the greatest purveyor of violence in the world) and marginalized in the movement for his criticism of black power, he was on the outs. It was under those circumstances that his message to America was most clear. He asked the question, "Where do we go from here: chaos or community?"

Here we are 50 years down history's crooked trajectory and we find ourselves facing that same question. The Black Lives Matter movement has assumed the prophetic mantle. It has taken its challenge to neighborhoods, highways and seats of power all over our nation. And though it is a part of a historic continuum of the black protest tradition, the Black Lives Matter movement's people are not a vanguard or a Talented Tenth. They don't adhere to or care about standards of respectability. They accept and affirm LGBTQ people. They are wary of the church and its patriarchal leadership model.

Although there are various narratives about how the Black Lives Matter movement started, all will agree that it was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin's murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year-old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. From there and onto Ferguson, Mo., and beyond, the movement has held up the plumb line to American injustice. It has called America to respond to the virulent anti-black racism that permeates our society.

And while so many of the people in positions of power and influence, black as well as white, are confused about or are against the modes and or the aims of this movement, they unfortunately have not expressed a parallel concern for why the pot is boiling over. Police agencies didn't just start killing and otherwise harming black and brown people. Every black adult I know and too many black children have a story, an intimate knowledge of state overreach, intimidation, inhumanity and violence. God gave Noah the rainbow sign: no more water, the fire next time.

The pot boiled over. People got tired of the naked racism, which only seems to have become more prevalent since the election of President Obama. People want to have full and unequivocal humanity even as their economic prospects are dampening. The movement calls for transparency and fairness in process. Specifically, the movement asks that police forces treat all people with humanity and dignity, and are otherwise held accountable. That is justice. The movement and its people want a specific guarantee that systemic injustice that manifests itself in police violence and cover-up is eradicated.

Where do we go from here? President Obama's now year-old Taskforce on 21st Century Policing has as the first pillar for reform in its report "building trust and legitimacy." This has to be the primary and a long-view approach. The trust of communities that have experienced the police as illegitimate occupying forces has to be earned. We have far to go and a plumb line by which to measure progress.

Rev. Ryan D. Davis is an associate pastor at Bullock Temple CME Church in Little Rock.

Favorite

Speaking of Black Lives Matter

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Ryan Davis

  • Little Rock: not so different

    Here in Little Rock, Police Chief Kenton Buckner has been called on to address the outrage surrounding the recent fatal police shootings of Delrawn Small in New York, Alva Braziel in Texas, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castille in Minnesota.
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas condones child abuse?

    If Harrises and Duggars go unpunished, yes.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Racism is systemic

    In a speech on Sunday at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Gov. Asa Hutchinson played directly into the narrative of respectability politics, where white people tell people of color how they should respond to a situation and condemn responses from others in the community experiencing anger, rage and other expressions of grief.
    • Jun 25, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Watch the trailer for 'Shelter,' the Renaud Bros. new doc on homeless kids in New Orleans

    Check out the trailer for "Shelter," the Renaud Bros. new feature-length documentary about homeless teens navigating life on the streets of New Orleans with the help of Covenant House, the longstanding French Quarter shelter for homeless kids.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Guest Writer

  • A better now

    The Boys and Men Opportunity Success Team (BMOST), an initiative led by a coalition of local stakeholders that includes the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, city of Little Rock, Arkansas Baptist College, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pulaski Technical College and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas, is determined to show you that what you see and hear about black and brown boys and men isn't the whole story.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Intro to ANNN

    The Arkansas Nonprofit News Network is an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.
    • Dec 22, 2016
  • Help all veterans

    Veteran-specific bills often miss the mark on helping the most sympathetic military families by focusing on retirement income.
    • Dec 22, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • What? That was all made up? Oh my. Well, let's hope he gets busy on…

    • on January 22, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Pssst - Lyons plans to pen a column on why the donors stopped giving to…

    • on January 22, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • The funniest thing about all this is that Lyons never said that Russia invaded anyone…

    • on January 22, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation