I need to share some thoughts. And I know that some of you may get confused, upset, or angry. That’s ok.
This past week, we saw another example of egregious mis-use of power; We witnessed another example or byproduct of systems, institutions, and structures that’s skewed or distorted; That diminishes the value of black bodies as lesser than…That’s what racism is. Not only can people be racist but what’s even more dangerous are structures that are distorted in such ways that it can be racialized … and people don’t even know. Which explains why after every nearly episode (Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland, McKinney, etc.) so many ask, “How is that racist?”
This is why – even at personal costs – we have to begin and continue to name certain things. Just name it! What officer Eric Casebolt did was wrong. He was out of control.
So, what’s justice in this situation? Is justice ensuring that he gets suspended or fired or forced to resign? That’s what happened, right? He resigned. (I initially thought he was fired). So, justice is served, right? On to the next story.
But…let’s pause for a moment. To be honest, I read news of his resignation with sadness; As a missed opportunity for our nation…a missed opportunity for us. In fact, I would suggest that he shouldn’t have been able to resign. Able to walk away and thus, changing the narrative as the victim in the story. Happens too often.
This is where some of you might get confused with what I have to say. We don’t just need justice. We can’t just exclusively have an eye for an eye justice. We can’t just exact as much pain and suffering unto others. If an eye for an eye does indeed create a society of blind people (paraphrased from Gandhi), this is a version of justice that in the long run, will only create more fear, distrust, and division.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying justice is not important. Officer Casebolt ought to have been suspended for an indefinite time but what if we had room and space for redemption.
As Christians in particular, a Gospel story without redemption is a broken and bankrupt theology of the Gospel.
God is in the business of restoring broken and fallen people, right? I’d like to believe…I need to believe that for all of us…we are not defined by our very worst mistakes. In other words, the beauty of redemption – for you, me, us, and them – is the hope in knowing that Christ is not yet done with us.
In the same way that many are rightly and prophetically calling for a more dignified storytelling of all peoples (eg ruminate on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), we must have the courage to believe this for others…for all of us. Meaning, is it possible for us to vilify and demonize Casebolt in such a way, that it’s not justice we’re seeking but retribution masked under the guise of justice? Do we believe that redemption and reconciliation is possible? Yes, clamoring for reconciliation with justice is lacking but such is seeking justice without a hope for reconciliation.
In other words, what does RESTORATIVE JUSTICE look like? My hope for the church (and for our larger society) is to be bent not just for the clamoring and demanding of swift justice but an imagination for restorative justice. Oh, we need a fresh imagination.
- Can you imagine a story where Casebolt is indeed suspended but during this time, invited to undergo extensive counseling and additional training?
- If Dajerria and her family was willing – since she should not feel obligated to engage in this process, can you imagine if he willingly went to Dajerria and truly apologized to her and her family? Truly apologized. Person to person. Have you ever seen a police officer after a tumultuous situation…apologize to the said person?
- Can you imagine the impact this would have on Dajerria?
- Can you imagine the impact on Eric?
- Can you imagine if their two families got together to break bread?
- Can you imagine the impact on local communities? On our nation?
Can you imagine?
What we need in the world isn’t just more of our version of justice but a glimpse of restorative justice that merges the biblical invitation and command of Micah 6:8 – “Seek justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly.”
Yes, it’s hard to imagine but we need a fresh vision…a fresh imagination.
But we don’t have to look too far for such a vision. If we look closely at the life of Jesus, this is the vision and imagination He offers to us.