an epitaph for justice

the right to bear arms


The lynching and murders of black men and women always bring up the same cyclic discourse. “Don’t protest this way.” “Don’t protest that way.” “Rioting doesn’t get you what you want.” “Stop disturbing the peace.” Martin Luther King Jr. is wielded as a shield against Malcom X.

In 1773, North American colonists decided to dump tea into the Boston harbor as a protest for what they deemed as “unjust” taxes. But what were these taxes for? The colonists wanted to push West, deeming the indigenous as “savage” and “uncivilized.” The resulting French and Indian War was a costly defense to which the British monarchy sought recompense for. But American colonists wanted to have their cake and eat it to. More Land, No Cost. The birth of a nation through violent revolution came out of a desire for the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” at the expense of others – of indigenous lives, of black lives.

The so-called “right to bear arms” against tyrrany was and continues to be deemed as only appropriate for some. As theologian James Cone reitereated, justice and liberation can only be defined by the oppressed, not the oppressors. Through the history of Christian theological tradition, a notion of “just war” has been developed. In sum, when all other reasonable options are exhausted to protect the innocent, violence can be justified.

There has not been peace in this country since its inception. There still is not peace. The names of the innocent are dripping with fresh blood. I do not claim to know when that threshold of reasonable options has been exhausted - what I do know is that Black people have a right to self-determination. As Malcom X has said, “it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.” As Martin Luther King Jr. stated towards the end of his life:

“Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community.”

Until we have true reparations and true justice, the litany of Black martyrs extends onwards. The fires will burn.

Emmett Till, pray for us.

Trayvon Martin, pray for us.

Michael Brown, pray for us.

Tamir Rice, pray for us.

Antown Rose, pray for us.

Atatiana Jefferson, pray for us.

Ahmaud Arbury, pray for us.

Breonna Taylor, pray for us.

George Floyd, pray for us.

May your deaths not be in vain.

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