There is no real justice without reconciliation. We know this sounds contrary to the common understanding of the word justice because in today’s world justice is measured by how well the punishment fits the crime. Reconciliation hardly ever comes up when discussing justice, but over the course of this organization’s development we have come to recognize reconciliation to be, not only important but essential for the implementation of true justice.
Our philosophy has evolved significantly over the past few years. It all began with a discussion about how today’s Black community might address issues of racial discrimination and unequal treatment at the hands of police officers. We were determined to approach the answers from an unconventional vantage point. Hence, the words “Say Yes Sir” were first floated as a mantra for change within the Black community because we believed the simple act of saying “Yes sir” had the potential to minimize any opportunity for police officers to hide behind the usual excuses for disproportionate violence against Blacks (e.g. fear for one’s life). Saying yes sir was not only a means to increase the likelihood of young Black people making it home safely after an encounter with the police, but doing so might also aid in repairing the broken relationship between the police and people of color. Of course, we now look back and realize that this as a stand-alone concept was hopelessly and carelessly naïve.
As an organization guided by our faith in Christ, we soon learned that what we were really looking for was racial reconciliation. We learned that reconciling is not only a good Christian thing to do. It is essential for spiritual growth throughout the community. More than that, we came to realize that, for Christ, justice and reconciliation go hand-in-hand. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus fulfilled the law through His death on the cross which makes no sense if justice is measured by how well the punishment fits the crime. Jesus didn’t commit any crimes! However, it makes perfect sense if we accept a greater definition of justice. That is, justice can only be considered served when reconciliation occurs and not a moment sooner.
Therefore, the Black community’s willingness to say, “Yes Sir” is not a cowering submission to authority but an olive branch intended to demonstrate readiness to reconcile, which brings us to why the Say Yes Sir mantra as a standalone solution to the racial dilemma in America is so naïve. Not only are police officers not appropriately incentivized to reconcile with the Black community today but America’s oppressed people of color are not yet emotionally ready to reconcile either. Such readiness requires healing on many levels.
When we follow Jesus’ example, we find that for reconciliation to happen any debt must be considered paid regardless of whether the payment matches the offense. As Christians, we are now reconciled to God not because we paid an adequate price for our offenses, but because God has considered our debt paid because of His own sacrifice for us. To follow such an example in our daily encounters with one another is tantamount to Christian discipleship and we believe it is the key to racial reconciliation.
Unfortunately, we recognize that this is a difficult teaching to swallow, but the question is, why? Do we resist loving one’s enemies through forgiveness and reconciliation because, fundamentally, we feel that it isn’t wise to do so? If that were the case we wouldn’t right stories about heroes who spare their enemies at a critical moment in battle and the concept of mercy wouldn’t be so heavily emphasized throughout our world literature from greek mythology to modern storytelling. Furthermore, grace and mercy has found its way into our American legal and legislative system, even though its application tends to be heavily biased. At SYS we believe humans struggle with grace and forgiveness solely because of our own brokenness and insecurities. That brokenness must be addressed before we can expect to demonstrate this divine quality.
There is preliminary work that must be done and Say Yes Sir is currently focused on doing the work to promoting readiness for reconciliation through the healing and restoration of people of color in five areas: Mental, Physical, Professional, Financial, and finally, Spiritual. Just as many in the year A.D. 30 had to be healed before they could become disciples of Christ, we believe the Black community must undergo comprehensive healing as the first stage toward true reconciliation.
We have come to realize that the behaviors and cultural idioms that reflect a people who are whole, unashamed, equipped and empowered to accomplish whatever they set their mind to do, regardless of any opposition, must become evident throughout the landscape of Black souls in America. We remain convinced that one such behavior will be a humble lending of respect to our governing authority figures in blue regardless of their history or their perceived intent. Furthermore, we believe that when such behaviors are coupled with true spiritual healing throughout the community they will lead to reconciliatory change.