Hello and welcome to the 3rd week of our book discussion of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. The coverage for this week is for chapters 12 through 16 and the epilogue. As Kym and Bonny have both explained, please join the discussion by leaving a comment here on the blog. I’ll be responding to your comments directly IN the comments, so please do check back once in a while to see how the discussion is going. Please feel free to respond to other commenters as well. We realize that this is not the most ideal discussion format and that it’s somewhat cumbersome and a little awkward but it’s the most reasonable way we could think of for our beta test and it has worked out okay the last two weeks.
So. Welcome! Let’s pretend that it’s Friday night and you’re all gathered in my living room enjoying Friday Night Snacks as we begin to discuss . . .
The book focuses primarily on the case of Walter McMillian but there are other cases presented as well, most dealing with women and juveniles. Which of those other cases were memorable for you and why? What emotions did they bring up for you? Were there any moments of satisfaction?
The title of Chapter 15 is Broken and Stevenson writes quite a bit about how we are all broken by something. The things that break us and hurt us may be different but our shared brokenness connects us. He further theorizes that hiding the most broken among us by locking them away in prison only serves to reinforce the cycle and that perhaps instead we should acknowledge our brokenness: if we owned up to our weaknesses, our deficits, our biases, our fears . . . maybe we would look harder for solutions to caring for the disabled, the abused, the neglected, and the traumatized. I had a notion that if we acknowledged our brokenness we could no longer take pride in mass incarceration, in executing people, in our deliberate indifference to the most vulnerable. If you’re comfortable, share the ways that you or those around you are broken and discuss how being vulnerable about the things that have hurt us can make the world better for everyone.
This final question is my big bold question, the one that might make some people really uncomfortable but I’m going to put it out there anyway. Stevenson concludes that there are four periods in American history that have shaped our approach to race relations and justice: slavery, the period following the collapse of Reconstruction until World War II, Jim Crow, and now mass incarceration which shows us statistically that while people of color make up 30% of the population of our country, they account for 60% of those imprisoned. What do you think about the statement that mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow? Can you think of ways that we can work against this and bring about change?