Just Mercy, 2019 [PG-13]
“I came out of law school with grand ideas in my mind about how to change the world. But Mr. McMillian made me realize we can’t change the world with only ideas in our minds. We need conviction in our hearts. This man taught me how to stay hopeful because I now know that hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Hope allows us to push forward, even when the truth is distorted by the people in power. It allows us to stand up when they tell us to sit down, and to speak when they say “be quiet.”
Through this work, I’ve learned that each of us is more than the worst thing that we’ve ever done; that the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth, the opposite of poverty is justice; that the character of our nation isn’t reflected on how we treat the rich and the privileged, but how we treat the poor, the disfavored, and condemned. Our system has taken more away from this innocent man than it has the power to give back. But I believe that if each of us can follow his lead, we can change the world for better, if we can look at ourselves closely and honestly, I believe we will see that we all need justice, we all need mercy, and perhaps, we all need some measure of unmerited grace. Thank you.
– Bryan Stevenson
צדק צדק תרדף
While I am not (nor ever will be) the President of the United States, if I ever were, one of my first candidates for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest honor, would be Bryan Stevenson for making “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”. Yeah, all of that. I’ve been following Stevenson’s work for several years and I revisit it regularly to compel and implore my soul in the fight for justice. I hope you will too.
It is infuriatingly frustrating how our psychological frailties thwart truth and justice all while appearing to abide by the law. It is persistently deflating to watch people behave so inhumanely, to witness racism thrive so openly, and to observe punishment being meted out so freely and willingly. We have a lot of work to do to excise punitive vengeance from our desires, and hatred and disdain from our minds. Our retributive ethic is neither just, nor effective. In fact, in a sort of cruel and tragic irony, our “criminal justice” system frequently perpetuates the very violence we *claim* we are seeking to extinguish. Our societal structures need a desperate redemption, championed by anointed people who will “live out the true meaning of [our] creed, that all [people] are created equal,” and call us all to that same aim.
To that end, as I’ve said before, may Bryan Stevenson’s tribe increase thousands upon thousands, and may we all pursue equal justice for all.
Bryan Stevenson’s Statement Before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, April 8, 2008
Walter McMillian on 60 Minutes
The Legacy of Racial Injustice
The truth is, justice will never come if we only do the things that are comfortable. More people have to be willing to do that uncomfortable, inconvenient thing that justice requires for things to get better. We don’t have to fear fairness. We don’t have to fear equality. We don’t have to fear doing the right thing.
HBO: True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight For Equality