In the fishbowl that is my workplace, you can see almost everything happening outside the shop, for better or for worse. Being located near the end of the Green Line, we have our fair share of interesting characters who frequent the streets, but generally, it's pretty quiet. Last week though, things picked up a bit and I witnessed a startling incident of aggression and discrimination.
It involved a black man and a white man. One who had the appearance of homelessness. The other a man of financial security.
It doesn't really matter what happened - I'm sure you can imagine it. What began as an accident quickly escalated into an episode of judgment, racial profiling, and unnecessary violence. As in most cases, both parties are at fault, because when we are threatened we think of protecting ourselves and what is ours, even at the cost of all sense of decency and respect. We got involved, the police got involved, and eventually things were settled.
The man who was victimized later returned to the shop to thank us for our intervention and support. He very honestly stated that things could have gone a very different way for him had we not backed his story and offered our help. Think about it: a black man, who appears to be homeless, in a fight with a middle-class white man. Who do you suppose has more weight in this story? And who is automatically the subject of profiling?
I grew up in a home that always rooted for the underdog. So my instinct is to question the obvious, seeking truth and justice first and foremost. In the aftermath of last week's incident, I couldn't help but wonder how far we've come in the over 50 years since the Civil Rights Movement. Laws have changed, standards have changed, and the general mindset of the people has changed. But racial profiling is still very much an issue, and this man's story is not unlike many others'.
I've been reading in the book of James over the past few weeks, mulling over these verses in chapter two of James' letter:
"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment."
This means I am to show mercy to the black man and the white man alike. It means that when I or what I consider rightfully mine is threatened by someone or something, my instinct should be to show mercy. Herein lies the root of true transformation and justice.
Mercy triumphs over judgment. I wonder how our world would change if we began to live this way.