Becoming Justice

by | Apr 22, 2021 | ShiftHappens

Over the last year, much of America and the world waited with heavy hearts for the outcome of the case against Derek Chauvin. 

This wasn’t just a fight for George Floyd. This wasn’t just a fight against Derek Chauvin. This was a fight for the soul of a nation, a fight for humanity, and a fight for justice. 

This week, the American legal system finally delivered accountability for this grievous murder. Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts.  Yet, only a few hours after the Chauvin verdict another young Black person was shot dead by the police.

This is the problem with accountability: it is retrospective, not preventative, coming only after the loss of another precious, irreplaceable life. Perhaps even more importantly, accountability is not restorative. George Floyd’s young daughter will still live a life without her father, irrespective of what the jury decided, just as Ma’Khia Bryant’s mother will never again hold her child. 

I’ve been thinking this week, like so many others, can we now move from accountability to true justice? Is our duty only to build and support the legal system and other institutions, making them more fair? Or is there a personal duty that each of us have to live the embodied virtue of justice in our everyday lives? 

If I consider what is needed to prevent another murder such as George Floyd’s, I am not sure the problem is solely an institutional one. Part of it must be personal. What I see fundamentally missing in these violent and traumatic events is relationship, loving personal concern, and a lack of understanding of our interdependence. 

Bureaucracies cannot love. They have no soul, heart, or conscience. Only individuals have those things. The “society” implied in “social” justice is made of a collective of individuals. The collective shapes the individual, but so too does the individual shape the collective. Perhaps the fight for justice is a fight with ourselves, one that starts within our own hearts; and “the work” to be done is the work of manifesting justice in our own thoughts, words and actions. 

At The Pollination Project, here is what we will do: we will continue uplifting individual action, working with people within their own communities to understand where they see just solutions. We will continue to invest in their loving concern for their neighbors, knowing this builds the capacity for compassion that exists there. And as individuals, we will work to better understand ourselves, remembering Frankl’s idea that happiness cannot be pursued, but is something that ensues. 

Perhaps justice is the same, and the answer is not to seek justice but to become justice.