Why “No Justice, No Peace” will not create peace.
“No justice, no peace!” This has been the shout at many of the Black Lives Matter protests. I was at a few while I lived in Oakland. I was tormented by the violence that happened in Ferguson, New York, Charleston, and countless other places. It hurt deeply to see those humans lose their lives. And yet, I believe that justice is not the way out.
What do people mean when they shout justice? Do they want the person who did the killing to be killed, an eye for an eye? Do they want the person who did the killing to be thrown in prison for life and lock away the key? Do they want the person who did the killing to go to court to be judged for his/her behavior and then punished if guilty?
I believe that vengeance killing, excommunication, or harsh punishment only perpetuates the cycle of moral violence. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “someone has got to have the courage to dim their lights.”
We feel pain at the loss of these humans. They were our friends, brothers, fathers, daughters, elders, and distant relatives. They were people who looked like many of us. It hurts to have them gone.
And yet, if we respond by judging the other person, we infect them with our pain. The individual who did the killing will hurt, whether from death, alienation, or humiliation. The friends, brothers, fathers, daughters, elders, and distant relatives of that person will hurt as well. So may the people who look like them.
I believe that what we need is to process our pain. To feel our sadness. To grieve the losses of the people that we held dearly. To grieve the losses of how things used to be. To grieve the losses of the trust that we had in ourselves to protect those we loved.
I believe that when we ask for justice, we ask for the other person to feel the pain that we are feeling and I believe that this vengeance will keep us trapped in an endless cycle of suffering. I believe that the way out is through allowing ourselves to feel the pain so that we can get back to the joy of living. And then we spread joy to the world, instead of pain.