As a person of colour, “justice” is more than another word in my lexicon. It is a term which holds immense social, and moral implications – implications which I am forced to face, bear, and reckon with every single day of my life. The truth is that we live in a society wherein colored persons are perpetually denied justice. Today, the reality – our reality – is that black boys are dying for brandishing toy guns. Latino women can’t secure loans because of redlining. Even today, I’m still called a “chink.”
It is overwhelmingly true that colored persons experience a different society, and that this “colored society” is one rife with, not justice, but injustice. One wherein principles like equal opportunity and fairness, principles which should apply as universally as the laws of gravity, do not apply in the same “cause-effect” manner enforced throughout white society.
When a man is murdered, our laws dictate that his killer be punished.
Consider Vincent Chin. A twenty-seven year old who died for the sins of a country from which he did not even originate. When they found him, auto workers Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz did not see a man; they saw an automobile industry failing at the hands of Japan. Chin was nothing more than an opportunity to exact revenge upon the Japanese. He was also Chinese and set to be married the next day. In one night, a wedding became a funeral, and neither Ebens nor Nitz spent a single day in jail because – as presiding judge Charles Kaufman put it – “These weren’t the kind of men you send to jail. You fit the punishment to the criminal, not the crime.”
Consider Emmett Till. A fourteen year old who was killed for flirting with a white woman – his body so disfigured than an initialed ring was all that remained of his identity. A boy whose real crime was simply that he was too black to be young and male and American. His killers, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant were declared “not guilty” after just an hour of deliberation.
Consider Eric Garner. A forty-three year old who was held in an illegal chokehold, brutally strangled, and murdered. Daniel Pantaleo – his killer – was not even indicted. When the colored are involved, laws apply disproportionately, and oftentimes not at all.
In physics, when a quark, and its antithesis – the antiquark – collide, annihilation occurs. Thus, the solution to injustice, the key to its destruction, must be justice.
Even so, studies report that fifty eight percent of millennials believe racism will heal with the passage of time, but what we forget is that change has always been catalyzed by human effort. Without activists like Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr., society wouldn’t have changed, and if our inaction continues, it never will.
And this is why the Gedenk Movement is important. As a society, we can only achieve justice by acknowledging the realities of those who are marginalized. It is impossible to solve the problems we choose not to fight and even more impossible to fight the things we choose not to see.
When a bone heals incorrectly it is “malaligned.” To correct this deformity, an osteopath will utilise the process of fracture reduction. Put simply, the physician will re-break the bone so that it will regenerate appropriately.
The Gedenk movement is a departure from the blasé culture of today. It refuses to accept injustice and celebrates the stories that are hard to tell. Though the process of fracture reduction is a painful one, it is also absolutely necessary. Without it, a society cannot heal properly.
As essayist Kiese Laymon once wrote, “remembering starts not with predictable punditry, or bullshit blogs, or slick art that really ask nothing of us; I want to say that it starts with all of us willing ourselves to remember, tell and accept those complicated, muffled truths of our lives and deaths and the lives and deaths of folks all around us over and over again.”
Gedenk is the Yiddish word for “commemorate.” Gedenk is a reminder to remember in a time when it has become all too easy to forget.
About the blogger: Though some disagree, Jasmine Cui likes to call herself a 90’s kid because she was born in 1999. She is majoring in Political Science, Economics and Violin Performance at SUNY Geneseo. Her celebrity crush is Kurt Vonnegut and aspires to be like her parents who are first generation Americans and fought an extraordinary battle for their place in this country.