Will there be justice for Freddie Gray? As of yet, it remains to be seen. The first officer’s trial left the jury hung and Baltimorians holding their collective breath, waiting for the public reaction, hoping a repeat of last springs riots would not play out.
The second officer, Edward Nero’s trial begins today in Baltimore after many postponements.
Waiting with the rest of the city for the second trail to begin had me thinking a lot about the meaning of justice and the idea of an eye for an eye as Hammurabi’s (1754 B.C.) original Babylonian code of law first enumerated.
The expectation that life is inherently fair is a common misconception of the youth. Fairness is not inherent, therefore, democracies attempt to establish justice by imposing equal treatment under the law within societies composed of inequitable wealth and power.
Justice often gets confused with revenge though the two words are not synonymous. To seek justice means to go after what is right, see the guilty punished, the wrongly accused vindicated. Justice is societies way to right a wrong, it is not personal, it is the technical process of righting a wrong.
When people feel the status quo is unjust, social and political unrest can threaten the very foundations upon which society is built.
Justice originates in ancient Babylon.
“By the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down… And there we wept, when we remembered Zion” (adapted from Psalm 137:1-4, Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton,1970).
The Rastafarian remix of this biblical psalm, uses the ancient society of Babylon as a metaphor for oppressive government. Just like the Babylonians drove the Israelites from Jerusalem, the Rastafarian culture, who connects with the 12 tribes of Israel, uses this biblical psalm to express their sorrow as they struggle for freedom from oppression, and for social justice. The song, “By the River’s of Babylon” (Dowe & McNaughton, 1970) is a metaphor for living under oppression and longing for freedom.
Like the ancient Babylonian code of law the idea of an eye for an eye has long been perpetuated as fair in the eyes of justice. Hammurabi’s code was inherently unjust however. Punishment in ancient Babylon was determined by social class and punishments were based on who had harmed whom. In America our judicial system attempts to impose equal protection under the law for all citizens. Though the irony of the similarities between now and then is hard to deny.
A fair trial in our society is one in which the due process of law is upheld for the accused and justice technically is served when the court system works properly to render its verdict. A flawed system perhaps, but the only system we have in place none the less.
What does justice for Freddie Gray look like? An eye for an eye won’t right the tragic wrong of a young man dying in police custody. Nor will punishing the officers whose job it is to maintain order and enforce the law. Justice for Freddie Gray is fixing a system that is deeply rooted in mistrust, prejudice and corruption. Justice will be served when the proper tools are put in place to make sure something like this never happens again. We need to work to establish a mutual respect between law enforcement and the community. Proper training and ethics workshops are needed to un-teach this dangerous relationship between police and the communities they serve. Police are there to keep society safe, we as American’s, now more then ever in recent history perhaps, need to ban together for a better tomorrow
In the words of one of the greatest advocates for social justice, President John F. Kennedy, this Christmas I ask you to do the same.
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” (President John F. Kennedy, 1963).
And in the coming weeks and months, I ask you to please pray for Baltimore.
Be well, Baltimore.