Most people do not consider the shedding of human blood to be a good thing. Just last week, we commemorated the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our “Drum Major for Justice” in the struggle for civil rights and equal justice under the law. Looking backwards through the decades since Dr. King’s murder, we find mixed analyses as to how many victories have actually been won in the Struggle for Justice. We must first contemplate and then interrogate how far we have come since the Freedom Rides of 1961 and the March on Washington in 1963. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were monumental and historic in their passage, we now find our elected and appointed leaders revisiting these ACTS and their long-standing tenets as perhaps “outdated” or out of step with contemporary times. There have been rollbacks and “take backs” in some portions of this historic legislation. In our current political climate, we recognize that the same laws that were created by legislators and upheld by the Supreme Court of the land in the 1960s can be rescinded and ultimately overturned. It has become increasingly more possible than ever before, that the civil rights gained through persistent struggle, active resistance and the spilled blood of countless named and un-named heroes and she-roes of the Movement could be erased by the strike of a single gavel. And that is NOT hyperbolic in the least.
After George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin five years ago, a National Movement called Black Lives Matter was created. This instantly reignited, in a contemporary context, the same social justice and equal justice discourse of the Civil Rights Movement of years gone by. Since 2012, when Trayvon Martin was fatally shot while in his own neighborhood armed with nothing but a can of ice tea and a bag of Skittles, the bloodshed of young Black men and women spilled at the hands of vigilante citizens and law enforcement officers has escalated and ignited national outrage. Citizen activists have pressured lawmakers and leaders to hold law enforcement accountable and to interrogate and reform the entire criminal justice system. The blood of these countless unintentional icons has re-fueled an aging Civil Rights Movement that, for too long, had been either dormant or ineffective in these contemporary times. The infusion of young and fearless activists has begun to re-imagine and reinvigorate The Struggle in current ways using social media and other tools of 21st century activism. The Struggle continues.
This is Holy Week in the Christian faith and the shed blood of Jesus, The Christ on the Cross of Calvary is cause for celebration. Not because Jesus died, but because his death was not in vain. Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. And because of His Resurrection from the dead, anyone who believes in Him will also be resurrected and have eternal life. Christians know they are forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. They claim VICTORY over the trials and tribulations of both life and death. There is Liberty and Freedom, no matter the circumstance.
There is a powerful transformation and change that can come through the shedding of blood. Within the human story, we are moved, changed and transformed by the loss of life and the blood shed by the innocent. Our collective historic legacy attests to that fact. It goes all the way back to human beginnings. There is something… in the BLOOD.