Quote: Two things are wanting in America…

But two things are wanting in American civilization a keener and deeper, broader and tenderer sense of justice; a sense of humanity, which shall crystallize into the life of the nation the sentiment that justice, simple justice, is the right, not simply of the strong and powerful, but of the weakest and feeblest of all God’s children; a deeper and broader humanity, which will teach men to look upon their feeble brethren not as vermin to be crushed out, or beasts of burden to be bridled and bitten, but as the children of the living God; of that God whose may earnestly hope is in perfect wisdom and in perfect love working for the best good of all. Ethnologists may differ about the origin of the human race. Huxley may search for it in protoplasm, and Darwin send for the missing links, but there is one thing of which we may rest assured that we all come from the living God and that He is the common Father. The nation that has no reverence for man is also lacking in reverence for God and need to be instructed.

(1875) Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, from “The Great Problem to be Solved”

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Quote: One Strike Left…

“We taught the Negros how to use that voting machine.[…] When I got back home [from law school] a lot of people said, ‘You’ve got two strikes against you: You’re a woman and you’re a Negro.’  Yeah, but I’ve still got one strike left, and I’ve seen people get home runs when all they’ve got left is one strike.’’

~ Alberta Jones {told The Courier-Journal in March 1965, shortly after she became a city prosecutor, the first African-American and first woman of any race in that job in Louisville, KY.}

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Quote: Justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other.

#americarising

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There’s no short cut. We don’t need more talk. ….

But, it would be a betrayal of everything Rev. Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do… to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudices that still infects our society. To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change. That’s how we lose our way again. …

Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other.  That my liberty depends on you…

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Quote: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.

Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor; the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.

We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it’s necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and – perhaps – we all need some measure of unmerited grace.

~ Bryan Stevenson from Just Mercy

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Quote: When one knows this about a man…

The tendency has really been, insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing. One watched the lives they led. One could not be fooled about that; one watched the things they did and the excuses that they gave themselves, and if a white man was really in trouble, deep trouble, it was to the Negro’s door that he came. And one felt that if one had had that white man’s worldly advantages, one would never have become as bewildered and as joyless and as thoughtlessly cruel as he. The Negro came to the white man for a roof or for five dollars or for a letter to the judge; the white man came to the Negro for love. But he was not often able to give what he came seeking. The price was too high; he had too much to lose. And the Negro knew this, too. When one knows this about a man, it is impossible for one to hate him, but unless he becomes a man – become equal – it is also impossible for one to love him.

~ James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

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Quote: That man who is forced each day to snatch his manhood…

I do not mean to be sentimental about suffering – enough is certainly as good as a feast – but people who cannot suffer can never grow up, can never discover who they are. That man who is forced each day to snatch his manhood, his identity, out of the fire of human cruelty  that rages to destroy it knows, if he survives his effort, and even if he does not survive it, something about himself and human life that no school on earth – and, indeed, no church – can teach. He achieves his own authority, and that is unshakable. This is because in order to save his life, he is forced to look beneath appearances, to take nothing for granted, to hear the meaning behind the words. If one is continually surviving the worst that life can bring, one eventually ceases to be controlled by a fear of what life can bring; whatever it brings must be borne.

~ James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

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