Kindness is not Justice

I am a white woman.

I deeply believe that all people are imprinted with the image of God, and I strive to treat everyone I meet as a fellow image-bearer. I don’t have to understand someone or align with anything they believe to treat them with dignity. They bear the image of God, and I will not do anything to damage or diminish that image within them.

It’s not enough.

I said “I will not do anything to damage…” But what if I stay quiet while others do it?

If I see someone behaving in a way that damages the image of God in another, I must call it out. I can do so in a way that also protects the image of God within the person inflicting the damage.

I know I actively work to foster love, kindness, dialogue, and respect among my circles.

But individual kindness does not bring institutional justice.

I’ve spent the last decade educating myself on systemic injustice and racial reconciliation.

When someone calls out racism or racial injustice in a news event, is your first response “Well I’m not racist! I treat everyone the same.” It may be true, but it’s an individual response to an institutional problem. It’s apples and oranges.

Institutional justice requires action beyond ourselves.

There are many videos circulating of positive interactions during the protests: people kneeling together, protecting each other, asking for forgiveness. It’s beautiful and necessary, but it’s not justice.

Justice comes when we change the systems that brought us to the point of unrest. Officers kneeling and asking forgiveness is a powerful image, but do they go back to their union and advocate for policy change? People post black squares on their social media, but are they contacting their officials and demanding change? Are they voting for interests beyond their own?

Kindness might change the mind of an individual, but it won’t change a system of oppression. Kindness without action…will see us repeat this cycle of injustice and protest in the near future. Action must go beyond a social media post. It must last longer than the trending hashtags. If you have the privilege to decide whether to act, you must act. It is your responsibility to use your privilege for good.

So how do you start? Read, listen, watch. Educate yourself. Examine your own complicity. Grieve. Have difficult conversations. Vote. Be vocal about your care for others.

It is hard to confront your own shortcomings. It is uncomfortable. It doesn’t come with a quick solution. You won’t get it right the first time…or maybe even the tenth time. 

Let’s lament together. And then let’s change the world.