By Rev. Edward Pinkney, 5/15/17
My many years of struggling against inequality, abusive power, poverty, oppression, and injustice have finally revealed something to me about myself. Being close to suffering, death, and cruel and unusual punishment didn’t just illuminate the brokenness of others, but in a moment of anguish and heartbreak, it also exposed my own brokenness. You cannot effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it.
We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and we all have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. I desperately wanted mercy for the residents of Benton Harbor, and I would have done anything to create justice for my fellow brothers and sisters: black, white, brown, red, yellow and all others. I could not pretend that the people’s struggle was disconnected from my own.
We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures, and the compassion that remains is our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion and, as a result, deny our own humanity.
I have been threatened, terrorized, wrongly accused and wrongly condemned, but I never gave up. I survived the humiliation of three trials and several different charges against me. I have survived two guilty verdicts and several wrongful condemnations by the State of Michigan.
While I did not survive without injury or trauma, I still have and will come out with my dignity. I told people that I had overcome what fear, ignorance, and bigotry had done to me.
I stood strong in the face of injustice. This made the rest of us a little safer, slightly more protected from the abuse of power and the false accusations that had almost killed me. I suggested to my friends and family that my strength, resistance and perseverance were a triumph worth celebrating—an accomplishment to be remembered.
The establishment tortured me, but I am still standing. The establishment told lies about me, but I am still standing. The establishment sent me to prison without any evidence to convict, but I am still standing. The oppressor (the establishment) gave me, in essence, a death penalty, but I am still standing. The all white jury was motivated by something other than the truth, but I am still standing.
Let’s make this struggle a victory for all who are victims of the corrupt criminal justice system in every city and town in America.