Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. Stevenson’s third solution is to stay hopeful. Share with your friends. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. That feeling of hopelessness only serves your masters. Be the first to learn about new releases! And that challenge is the broader history of racial injustice and changing the narrative in the states. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. Bryan Stevenson Quotes. We have a system of justice in [the US] that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. The opposite of poverty is not wealth. “Hopelessness is the enemy of justice,” he said. National Memorial For Peace And Justice Source: Supplied. Whenever society begins to create policies and laws rooted in fear and anger, there will be abuse and injustice. One-way Stevenson has tackled this is by setting up the Legacy Museum and the National Museum for Peace and Justice in Alabama so that Americans can acknowledge and understand their history just as we are doing in Australia through truth-telling. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.”, “[W]e would never think it was humane to pay someone to rape people convicted of rape, or assault and abuse someone guilty of assault or abuse. Bryan Stevenson: Hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done. Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. He says they are warehoused, abused then sent back out into the community where they are primed to re-offend and then they are excluded in society and face barriers for employment. "My parents, who grew up in terror and dealt with segregation and humiliation, nonetheless taught us to be hopeful and open and loving and not hateful toward anyone. “I've also represented people who have committed terrible crimes but nonetheless struggle to recover and to find redemption. TED Talk, www.ted.com. I thought of the many ways we’ve legalized vengeful and cruel punishments, how we’ve allowed our victimization to justify the victimization of others. Born towards the end of the Jim Crow era, the laws that legalised racial segregation in the US, Stevenson grew up in a poor segregated community in Milton, Delaware. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. In 2019, I had the great privilege of travelling to Alabama to interview Bryan Stevenson about his extraordinary life and career and to see first hand the incredible work of the EJI. You ultimately judge the civility of a society not by how it treats the rich, the powerful, the protected and the highly esteemed, but by how it treats the poor, the disfavored and the disadvantaged. "I saw an old man, Mother. I had to believe I could be a lawyer even though I'd never met a lawyer who looked like me. He said in 1972 the prison population was approximately 200,000, jumping to 2.2 million in 2019. It’s what we call the healing process. All three women nodded in silent agreement and for just a little while, they made me feel like a young prince.”, “Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”, “There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. You have to get close,”, “All these young children being sent to prison forever, all this grief and violence. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.”, “Finally, I've come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. March 2012. Quotations by Bryan Stevenson, American Activist, Born 1959. We need police officers who see themselves as guardians and parts of the community. We’ve submitted to the harsh instinct to crush those among us whose brokenness is most visible. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity. “You can’t be a change agent without hope.” He recalled a conversation with Johnnie Carr, architect of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Rosa Parks when both women were in their 80s. - Bryan Stevenson quotes at AZquotes.com We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We live in a country that talks about being the home of the brave and the land of the free, and we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. And yet we've achieved all of those things. We've all been acculturated into accepting the inevitability of wrongful convictions, unfair sentences, racial bias, and racial disparities and discrimination against the poor. Stevenson is a remarkable man who has devoted his life to fighting against racial inequality in the American criminal justice system. Stevenson could see flaws in the criminal justice system and the unfair treatment of the accused. Goodreads helps you follow your favorite authors. Visiting both memorials when I was in Montgomery was a truly emotional experience. And that's a very sensible question. “America's prisons have become warehouses for the mentally ill.”, “Fear and anger are a threat to justice. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. After spending six years on death row, the conviction was overturned by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 1993 and prosecutors agreed the case had been mishandled. It is almost like this history has been swept under the carpet much like the black history of Australia. “I think hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” “You can be a career professional as a judge, a prosecutor, sometimes as a defense attorney, and never insist on fairness and justice. We want to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in criminal justice...Ms. Somebody has to speak when other people are quiet. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. We're trying to stop the death penalty, actually. By changing the narrative Stevenson says there needs to be more talk about the history of native genocide, slavery, segregation and to find a way to create a future that is less burdened by this history. They can infect a community, a state, or a nation, and make us blind, irrational, and dangerous.”, “Of course innocent mistakes occur but the accumulated insults and indignations caused by racial presumptions are destructive in ways that are hard to measure. Stevenson says as a result there are thousands of people in prisons who are innocent of crimes for which they have been convicted and tens of thousands who have been unfairly and wrongly sentenced. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.”, “capital punishment means ‘them without the capital get the punishment.”, “But simply punishing the broken--walking away from them or hiding them from sight--only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. I thought of the guards strapping Jimmy Dill to the gurney that very hour. What changes need to be made to the justice system to ensure African Americans are not incarcerated at such high rates? After graduating from Harvard, Stevenson moved to Montgomery Alabama, where he established the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in 1989. We’ve become so fearful and vengeful that we’ve thrown away children, discarded the disabled, and sanctioned the imprisonment of the sick and the weak—not because they are a threat to public safety or beyond rehabilitation but because we think it makes us seem tough, less broken. But our shared brokenness connected us.”, “Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. "We need to talk about an injustice". In 1988, Stevenson met McMillian and took on the case to appeal his conviction and death sentence. They have to overcome that presumption. Well, I have a law project called the Equal Justice Initiative, and we're trying to help people on death row. His first high profile death row case was that of Walter McMillian who was wrongly convicted of murder in 1986. Yet we were comfortable killing people who kill in part because we think we can do it in a manner that doesn’t implicate our own humanity the way that raping or abusing someone would. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption”, p.21, Spiegel & Grau. When he told a story he traced the fold in a tablecloth with his forefinger just like you. We had to believe we could build a museum and a memorial in the heart of a pretty hostile space when it comes to racial justice.