Am I a human being?!
These words were cried out by Julius Jones mother and written down by Jonathan Martin. Those are words of anguish from a mother fighting for the life of her son, and the system treating him as if he was nothing. This happened right here in Oklahoma. While his life was spared, eventually, he was still given life in prison—and he is innocent. Our governor made him go through his last rites knowing he was going to give him a stay of execution too! Our governor is incredibly cruel. He has no capacity to feel and that is dangerous.
That stay of execution only happened because the Table Church formed in OKC in response to Julius Jones. Cece Jones-Davis is the founder of the #juliusjones campaign and has caught the world by storm with her advocacy. She is largely to thank for Julius Jones life being spared. Her work with the Justice for Julius campaign continues, because it is not over. She is also expanding this nationwide. The death penalty is not just in Oklahoma, but we sure are the ones making people pay attention!
Y’all, I am trying not to overshare my own family’s trauma: 1) it retraumatizes me 2) it can trigger others who do care but it can cause old wounds to resurface. So let me try this. There is a reason I am juxtaposing our situation with Julius Jones even though they are not the same, but there is a pattern that is the same.
I think when someone wants to heal from any trauma, it is going to fall the hardest on them. It requires a lot of feeling and seeing how it is everywhere in society. It makes it incredibly hard to re-engage society because it is likely to happen again. My family has been burned by two communities now in two completely different ways. But I am discovering patterns: 1) we were overextended both times 2) it is one person acting up that no one is calling to account 3) there is no procedure in place protecting leaders from abuse. 4) the system needs a scapegoat to avoid facing its own failings.
Here is an explaination of trauma by Aundi Kolber:
Trauma happens when we experience a profound rupture in safety (related to emotions/relationships/faith/health/reality, etc) & the repair does not match the wound.
That is something my family and I just experienced. It was profoundly traumatic and it is not just because of the person who acted up in a foolish way that caused the fiasco. Y’all, I know the whole story now and it is so dumb. You cannot even say it was in abundance of caution because it was not even that. It was a clear lack of procedure in place and someone untrained just fumbling around without a guide. Another leader with no capacity to feel, but loves feeling the power. I am grateful it was dumb, I guess. But the reality is I know now it does not matter how pure and innocent you are, if the system needs you to be a scapegoat, you are going to be a scapegoat.
Julius Jones seems like an extreme case, except Oklahoma—and other states that carry out the death penalty—does this to innocent people quite a bit. We should not even being doing it to the guilty. Some states have even executed children. Read “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. But the thing is, it does not start with the death penalty to get to the apathetic way we are carrying out the death penalty. It starts when we think punishment is a good idea, and our way of punishment is via humiliation and isolation.
Pantsuit Politics discussed addressing wrongdoing differently recently. Would people be more forthcoming with errs they have made if they knew they were not going to be met with humiliation and judgement? When people actually are guilty, the hurt already happened that caused the action. Or maybe they just erred and did not mean to. That happens too. The punishment is just adding something to the situation that is not related to it, so it is NOT solving the problem at all. It not only does not solve anything, it spreads trauma to more people.
I am trying to end this cycle of trauma our systems are consistently producing all around us, everywhere. I read lots of articles with people explaining bad theology and sharing a different way to read and interpret scripture to challenge long-held toxic beliefs. That is really important work. We also need a voice educating on emotional wounds and trauma, and how repressing the emotions does not produce resiliency. When a major event has happened in your life, it needs acknowledgment and care from a community. Communities can help break the cycle of trauma with presence. Like The Table did for Julius Jones. It saved his life and they have not stopped fighting for him. Or like Damar Hamlin. When he was down everyone stopped. And a person was by his side the whole time until he woke up and found out he won the game of life.
It is time to be treated as humans. No one is strong enough to carry themselves through a horrific event that has forever altered their nervous system and how they see the world. Repressing emotions about events actually exacerbates apathy and lack of understanding.
We are human beings.