Sometimes what happens to you is not fair.
It’s not fair that you got that diagnosis or that your mom isn’t here to show you the ropes or the insurance company refuses to cover that particular medicine you really need or you’re stuck between the impossible decision about whether or not to send your kid to school in a pandemic.
Sometimes life just stacks against us.
Today, I wanted to talk to someone who understands the cost of unfairness. He’s been living the nightmare of being unjustly accused and living with the consequences.
In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two capital murders. Crimes he didn’t commit.
The supposed murder weapon was his mother’s gun. But the evidence didn’t exist. He was at work miles away at the time of the crime. He passed a polygraph. The bullets were never proven to have come from that gun.
But none of it mattered.
He was a black man in Alabama. That was his only crime.
He was sentenced to death and sat on death row for twenty eight years until Justice lawyer Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative proved his innocence and pushed the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, where his conviction was finally overturned. And on April 3rd, 2015, Ray Hinton was set free. Today, as the Equal Justice Initiatives community educator, Mr. Hinton is a tireless and powerful advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. He is also the author of the gorgeous memoir, and our book club pick, The Sun Does Shine.
Click the PLAY button below to listen to our full conversation. Or, read the full transcript, here.
One of the most powerful things about Ray’s commitment to justice is that it does two things at once. It condemns the unfair systems that distort the truth. He was innocent in a society that pronounced him guilty because of the color of his skin. But Ray also pronounced his own verdict on all humanity. We are all worthy. The good and the bad among us, the criminals and the saints, the deserving and the undeserving.
Even in the midst of the most profound kinds of unfairness, he never lost sight of something true about himself and other people. We all hunger and need to be loved. We need to be forgiven. We need to have those who show up every week to talk about everything and nothing. Our fundamental humanity is never in question. No matter what we’ve done.
Structurally, we must work towards systems which do the hard work of perfect justice. But personally, spiritually, individually, we must walk the path that Ray’s been walking. In the words of the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business. And in fact, it’s nobody’s business. What we’re asked to do is love. And this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”
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Ray’s gorgeous memoir, The Sun Does Shine, was this month’s book club pick for The Everything Happens Book Club. Listen to our conversation or read the book and use these discussion questions to dive in deeper with friends, a small group, or a Sunday School on Zoom.