Brown & Criminal: A Good Friday Reflection / A.J. Hendry

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His brown skin had always been a mark of his criminality in the eyes of the privileged class. His prayers and devotion to Allah a sign of his subversive nature, a veiled threat to the powers that be.

He was written off before he even had a chance to write himself off.

Dragged before a kangaroo court, his fate was decided by liars, telling half-truths, and falsehoods.

He stood in the docks, His back bent under the collective guilt of all those who had gone before.

Every brown boy who – like him – had gotten out of step with “normal” society. Every kid who had ended up at the right place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people.

Like those before, and all who would come after, he too was alone. His brothers, those who had said they would die for him, would die with him, had long ago abandoned him. When the sun was shining, and the air was clear, they’d made promises, promises of faithfulness, promises built off the back of their shared experiences. They were brothers, and if the cops came, they’d go to jail before they would let those pigs take “their boy”.

But, now “their boy” was alone. And those kids who’d said they would stand by him, were hiding in their rooms, trying desperately to forget what they had become.

But, then, could you blame them? Their skin was painted the same shade that had put their bro in hot water. To stick around was to give in to the inevitable path their life had always set before them. To make them yet another statistic. A number, to be used in that game the powerful play so carelessly with the lives of the vulnerable.

No, do not waste your scorn on the man’s brown brothers. They had to survive, in fact, for them fleeing those screeching sirens, and red and blue flashing lights, may have been the only act of resistance they had left.

If you want to point your anger in any direction, then turn it to the liberal elite. Those who championed His cause, who tweeted their support, liked his INSTA stories, and followed his movement. Until, they didn’t. Until being associated with Him meant it would cost them something. Until following Him meant losing their own following. When the tide turned, so did they. They unfollowed him in droves once his name was marked. The comfortable, middle class, white, elite. He had always made space for them at the table, inviting them into his new vision for humanity, allowing them an opportunity to become whole. And they had basked in his glow, while at the same time rejecting the Life he offered them. They were not interested in the revolution this man offered, they enjoyed dreaming of a world beyond, but Allah forbid they would have to get their hands dirty to make it a reality. Long before the brown brothers fled for their lives, those with the least to risk, ran the fastest.

And so, He was alone.

All he had worked for his whole life was stolen by a few sloppy, and well-placed lies.

His name, which only yesterday had held such high esteem, was dragged through the mud.

But, then, why are we surprised. This has always been the way. It’s nothing new. He was a brown man, in a white man’s world. This had happened countless times before, and it would continue to happen countless times again.

It was one thing for a brown man to raise his status, to earn wealth playing the white man’s game, but it was another to question the legitimacy of the power structures that kept so many of his people in poverty and oppression.

No, as soon as he started questioning the economic system that oppressed his people, he had to be silenced.

He was labelled racist, a rebel, written off as just another angry brown man, dangerous and subversive. Criminal.

But, who were the real criminals?

The ones who refused to comply with an unjust system, or those who benefited from that very system? Gaining wealth, and resting in comfort, as others suffer to make their lifestyles possible.

The one standing in the docks was born into poverty, he was homeless, raised in a fatherless home, all products of the colonizer’s betrayal.

But, He was the criminal.

The crown who presumed to judge Him had stolen the whenua from His tupuna, leaving his whanau destitute, ripping from him his culture, his faith, his heritage.

But, He was the criminal.

And the State, the same state, that allowed children to be born into poverty, that allowed rangatahi to live on the streets, that allowed the rich to gain at the expense of the poor, that neglected the needs of the most vulnerable, and gave lip service to the demands of the marginalized, this same State, demands justice.

And justice they would get.

For He was the criminal.

So they called for His blood.

“Throw the book at Him.” They said, “Lock him away, throw away the key.” “Kill that black bastard”.

The punishment did not fit the crime.

But, He was the criminal.

So what rights did he have?

The people got their way.

An eye for a life.

We got ourselves an execution.

This is how it has always been, how it continues to be. It is a story which has played out a thousand times since, and one which is played out daily through out this nation, in our courts, and in our justice system.

And so today, the day some call Good Friday, we remember Him. Ihu Karaiti.

A brown man, falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, convicted on the word of liars, and brought down by rumours and speculation.

We remember the horror of false accusation. The helplessness of whose who are convicted first by the colour of their skin, second by the deeds of their hands.

We remember those who sit in lock up, imprisoned because they have nowhere to go. Locked up only because they have no safe, or adequate home to live in.

The man Ihu Karaiti sits with them.

The man Ihu Karaiti knows their pain.

The man Ihu Karaiti will not ignore those who made their suffering possible.

Amongst the bitter seeds that injustice sows, the Kingdom will rise.

A.J. Hendry

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