Humanity and Justice: My reaction to TED2012 Speech by Bryan Stevenson

I guess I was one of those ready to be moved, as one of the commenters stated. Bryan’s words spoke to me and I couldn’t wait to learn more from this man.

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. He is a profound speaker, a human rights activist, and a lawyer. He is lobbying for social changes that can be met tomorrow if we could get a vote on the agenda. He battles the court cases that no one else will take so that he can effect change for the generations.

It would be an awesome experience to meet any man who believes, “The opposite of poverty is justice” not wealth. Anyone who can hold the attention of Rosa Parks and really hear what she was saying is inspiring and should be heard.

Do you all agree with the idea that 13 year olds should be tried as adults?

Do you believe in the death penalty or know the reasons you shouldn’t?

I guess growing up in Texas the Death penalty has always just been an accepted concept, so I never thought about it. It’s like fluoride in water or humidity. It’s just part of life. Huntsville…that little town just the opposite end from my little town across this big city.

It’s only when I stop to ponder that the man behind the giant brown, brick wall awaiting execution is a soul that I understand why the death penalty is so challenging for some people to accept. The man waiting is a person. The man waiting did a bad thing, something worthy of punishment, but does it deserve death? Does it deserve the ultimate price tag? What about my life and circumstance makes me sufficient to deem someone beyond repair? Would I sentence someone to death?

Is it even possible to consider sentencing a 13 year old to that fate? Is a 13 year old beyond repair?

I have to believe that just because there was some act of violence performed that perhaps some sort of social reconstruction program could be necessary, but an all out agenda against this boy because of his mistake? He’s a boy. He’s a child. If he’s done wrong he may not have understood the consequences of his actions.

No, I am not referencing any case in particular and for all I know the 13 year old the video talks about isn’t in my state, but just the idea is scary.

Stevenson discusses a talk he had with a German government official that states there is no way the German people would be able to have a death penalty for any reason. Their history doesn’t allow it. What would the world think if they made an effort to pass a law that allows them to kill criminals?

A nation that has killed millions of people deemed criminals based solely on their ethnic background and not on any actual crime that was commited. I don’t think the Hague would be able to allow such a thing.

Yet, we Southerners put more people who fit with minority stereotypes to the needle. These are the same peoples we supressed and subjected to inhuman conditions for generations. White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant Americans, until recent history, we were the terrorists for many people.

Many other Americans.

We created reservations for the native peoples who wouldn’t fit into our molds. We created and upheld slavery for generations…100s of years we made another man work for us…simply based on skin pigmentation. Not that we understood that concept, but when I think about the horrors that we have inflicted simply because someone doesn’t fit our stereotype of what is normal, what is acceptable, we belittle, we injure, we kill, and say it’s all for the end results.

It’s a means to an end.

I doubt that. It is not a means to an end. It is a means to failure. A means to fracture. A way of dividing us permanently so that we can never rise together in a unified voice to say, “You’re a person. I’m a person. We have the same dreams for life. If you help me and I help you we can each accomplish these things.”

I live in what can only be called a “red neck” community. My soul aches at the ignorance that abounds in some company. I’d argue with them until I was blue in the face, but to what ends? I guess maybe that is what I want to know.

I want to know from you all, How do you handle ignorance? How do you teach equality, humanity, and social change without sounding holier than thou, without using words that are going to immediately shut off the ears of the listener?

We can only change those we can touch, and if we can’t touch their soul with our words, how do they understand.

We’re all on this rock together. The sooner every one recognizes that we can’t annihilate and destroy each other to sustain the better off we will be.

“Society should not be judged by how we treat the rich, but on how they treat the poor.”

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4 thoughts on “Humanity and Justice: My reaction to TED2012 Speech by Bryan Stevenson

  1. Andra Watkins says:

    Excellent post, Meg. I have never understood why human beings feel so threatened by people who are not just like they are, why we have this need to surround ourselves with carbon copies of ourselves, to sanitize our surroundings of things that don’t fit that mold. The most interesting thing about living, to me, is learning about life from the perspectives of others who are different from me.

    • Megan D. says:

      I know! That’s what I love about traveling, the experience of all the cultures and people. The sights, the smells, the wonders that make them each their own, that thing that makes their identity their own.

  2. JoAnneSimson says:

    Megan, Marvelous blog post! Thank you.
    I watched the TED talk all the way through and will post it to my facebook page. This needs to be heard, to be said, to be read and to be thought about and to be talked about in our all too fractured country. Slavery was a crime against humanity, and we are now reaping the consequences of that crime two centuries later in the poverty and hostility of a large segment of our population.
    Your “mea culpa” was touching. Although I am a Midwesterner transplanted to the South, and didn’t experience the overt racism that (still) exists here, there was a different kind of racism there that I was only vaguely aware of. I still feel a great deal of guilt and helplessness about where we are in the racial conversation and what we can do about it. Will our country have to wait for a genetic mixing to finally run its course before we can say “Enough.”

    • Megan D. says:

      Thanks for commenting JoAnne! You are right about wondering if we will have to wait to become one real race of people. I have a friend from Brazil who tells me that race really isn’t an issue there because they have intermingled so much. Their class system is based more on their economy, which that too isn’t ideal. I wonder what would happen to us if we all just started to agree to disagree and live in peace? Would the earth fall apart? Would there be mass rioting? Would the days simply work better? I don’t know, what I do know is that I will try to teach this way of living to every one I know and see what happens.

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