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The Problem With Black People Asking God For Justice

June 23rd 2017

Shonitria Anthony

"Yanez may have gotten away with justice on this planet. He will not get away with divine justice."

These were Valerie Castile's words to the public moments after Minnesota Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty in the fatal shooting of her son, Philando Castile.

Usually, moments after the death or lack of conviction of loved ones, the parents of the slain will say to the press something similar to Castile, in relation to religion and God.

Tracy Martin, dad of Trayvon Martin, told NBC News in an interview published in July 2013 before George Zimmerman was found not guilty for the second-degree murder charge in the death of his son that "we will still put our faith in God," if Zimmerman was acquitted.

"My answer to that would be God is in control. You know, we continue to put our faith in God. And God forbid, if acquittal is handed down, we still put our faith in God, you know, it's out of our hands. There's nothing we can do and we'll continue to pray," he said.

Trayvon Martin sign

"It's in Gods hands."

There's something so moving and sad about that sentiment. But why does it often make me angry?

Because this expression, to me, reveals a conditioning of black people, even from a young age, to trust in and give it over to God in the midst of all hardships. This is especially the case when faced with death or a wrongdoing at the hands of a cop, a person of authority or a white person.

My mom, a Southern woman, would always make biblical references whenever sadness or difficulties struck. Maybe I'm cynical to wonder what kind of God would do this to you or us because of the color of our skin? I'm aware that spirituality and religion serve so many purposes in one's life, and I would never diminish that significance. I can understand calling out to or praying to God for comfort or solace. However, I ask that we follow up those prayers with action.

Religion was introduced to slaves and later encouraged as a form of control. But black people held on to religion and spun it into a symbol of hope.

During the late 1800s, and early nineteenth century, lots of black folks were converted to Christianity. With slaveholders quickly realizing that religion could be used to continue preaching the importance of obedience to their masters. However, religion - likely unbeknownst to many white people at the time - began to become a beacon of hope for slave preachers who would use the word of God to teach redemption, freedom and salvation.

"Slaves sang spirituals filled with lyrics about salvation and references to biblical figures like Moses, who led his people to freedom. On occasion, these songs functioned even more explicitly as expressions of resistance, encoding messages about secret gatherings or carrying directions for escape," according to PBS.

Religion continues to have an important role in the lives of many black people to this day, and it should. "Several studies and surveys reveal black Americans retain remarkably strong levels of religious beliefs and practices. And that spiritual core is having an impact on community life in areas from health to economic empowerment," HuffPost reported in 2015

Even so, this must be said: I don't believe God will be able to change the justice system (at least not on his/her own).

We all know the statistics of how black people are disadvantaged and discriminated against in every single aspect of life: black people arrested at a rate five times more than that of whites, blacks are more likely to be spoken to disrespectfully by the police, black people in the military are punished more, black students get punished more harshly, black women are least desired when it comes to dating, black women with natural hair in the workplace face more bias, people with black-sounding names are less likely to hear back from a job, and so much more.

It will take the support, courage and persistence from all Americans to change this systemic issue that's deeply engrained in the tapestry of this country. All my life, I have been told how this system wasn't made for us to succeed, and how I would have to work twice as hard to get half as much. But I still believe that change is attainable through action and being vocal.