No Justice, No Peace

This week, the Western media has been falling all over itself covering acts of violence that have happened within the United States. Three mass shootings in one day have made the standard national discourse on gun control, terrorism, immigration, and mental illness a bit louder, but it hasn’t changed anything. Not even a week after a gunman murdered three people and injured many others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, the US Senate voted to defund Planned Parenthood in a bid to shut down one of the only clinic settings where all people can get safe and effective reproductive health care and support.

At the same time, various Orisha communities have embarked on a campaign to wear white for 10 days in a visible petition to Obatala to bring peace and understanding down upon the world. Pockets of Orisha worshippers all over the US and internationally have been busy praying and planning for events to disseminate their message, and to great end–if you are even remotely connected to Orisha anything on any social media, you cannot scroll an inch without seeing photos and comments about personal endeavors to wear white and what that is bringing into the lives of each practitioner participating. It has been interesting to watch this all unfold, especially in the face of heightened visible violence in the United States.

Esu has been very present with me this week, and I have regarded Him with a bit of suspicion. Strong presence from Him in my life usually precipitates some sort of big change or stark realization in my immediate future and, while I adore Him, I have learned to be wary and a bit circumspect. His lessons and circumstantial experiences are always valuable and necessary, but boy can they be difficult to chew on at times.

I asked Him if there was something He wanted and His answer was deceptively simple–’Look’.

He kept bringing me back to the act of striving for peace in the midst of violence, and kept pushing me to stretch how I look at things and how I think about them. One of the lessons that all my divinities–not just my Father–have pushed me to constantly learn and relearn is how to think critically from a global standpoint and remove myself from my own emotional experience. My emotional experience is not invaluable–quite the opposite–but it is only mine, and does not extend past my own nose. Esu sees all roads, possibilities, and outcomes free from His own biases and, while I am certainly not Esu nor can I be all that He is, there is a certain expectation that He holds of His children–to get out of our own ways and learn how to see without the messy bias of one’s own opinions. Esu is not immoral, but amoral–He does not carry a human moral compass and instead looks for what the best possible outcome is based on what needs to happen.

With all that in mind, I kept looking at the expressions of violence and desire for peace. Hilariously, I sort of sat with ‘what would Esu do’ and sort of went from there. The question that kept popping up over and over was ‘what has peace accomplished?’. What has changed because of peace? What has peace brought? What has been the fallout of the US living in relative internal peace for the last fifty years?

Short answer: across the board, nothing good.


The mistake of peace is to believe it brings calm equality. Praying for peace means praying for upheaval and social change, not the smoothing of the ripples created by structural inequality and hundreds of years of mistreatment and degradation. Peace has never come by sitting still, only by standing up and getting bloody.

Peace is a consolation prize for losing the social and moral battle to do what is assigned as good. In the US, this false sense of peace that communicates a flawed status quo has provided a painted ground cover under which the social ills of injustice and inequality have taken root, gone to ground, and rotted. This cover of would-be social good has only provided the opportunity for gross belief to infect an already-rotten framework, and given strength to plausible deniability by the incumbent, corrupt majority. The desire for peace–a tranquil environment free of conflict and perceived injustice and inequality–has left us with a ruling majority that preaches equality while continuing to feed into systems of dominance that systematically split society along race, gender, culture, and class lines in an effort to keep the power with those equality-preachers. Peace is a lie and the people who preach peace as a blanket solution to social realities are liars.

One of Esu’s lessons to me is not necessarily to tell the truth–sometimes telling the truth will get you killed–but not to lie to yourself. No matter what you put out into the world, you must know your truth, and you must know it deep in your bones. Esu abhors self-deception as much as oil hates water. We can preach peace, but only if we know that it is an inherent falsehood.

Do I fault people who want peace? No. Wanting to smooth the ripples of discontent so that our worlds are comfortable and non-confrontational is a natural, human desire. It is not, however, a helpful one and it too often forgets our own humanity and the humanity of others in the process. We run the risk of whitewashing–literally and figuratively–our differences in pursuit of what we believe to be social equilibrium.

Esu reminds me that He is not peaceful. He does not come with messages of calm acceptance and universal brotherhood. Instead, He comes bearing the knife that strips away illusion and brings forth personal understanding. After all, how could the Owner of all roads and He who embodies the liminality of the crossroads exist if He were not first to know Himself above all things? He reminds me that violence and bloodshed, while exceptionally painful, bring about necessary change and are like chemotherapy for the cancerous soul of society. Would the issues of racial injustice and racial inequality have come up had the lives of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and countless other Black men not been taken by members of the racist and corrupt militarized police force?

If I accept these things as true–that peace is a cultural falsehood and that violence has a useful place in the development of society–then where does that leave me as a practitioner of culturally-based minority religions? This might actually be the root of the actual query that Esu has sent me scurrying after.

My divinities as a whole are not peaceful. Eshu does not preach peace. The Lwa did not help enslaved Africans succeed in the only successful slave revolt by meeting the French colonizers with nonviolence. They do not protect me by laying down Their blades. Justice does not mean free from bloody battle. Asking Them for peace only gets me a confused side-eye.

Have we not taught you well? Did we not assure your safety?

Ogou will not lay down His machete or sword because I cringe from the reality of violence. Ezili Dantor will not stop screaming because I block my ears. Agwe will not calm His tides because I am afraid of swimming. Eshu will never not stab me in the heart with His blade when I need to realize painful truths. If I love Them, I cannot ask Them to put aside the tools that They have used to assure my safety and well-being, and the safety and well-being of all Their people.

Further, the rhetoric of peace treads dangerously close to ‘turn the other cheek’ for those of us who are members of marginalized populations. Preaching peace is a dangerous occupation when the dominant class doesn’t see your life as worth preserving, but expects you not to stand up and meet your would-be murderers, implicit or outright, as the threats they are. This is exceptionally evident in the media portrayal of #BlackLivesMatter and transgender activists–people who stand up and demand equitable treatment and an end to state-sanctioned violence against Black people and trans individuals are painted as terrorists and troublemakers.

With all of these things in mind, I do not pray for peace. I do not set aside the reality of the divinities who love me fiercely and violently. I do not discount how the lie of peace is used to quiet those who seek a better life.  Instead, I pray for justice, be it in my time or in the time of the divinities. I pray for justice, whether it comes quietly in the night or at the cut of a bloody blade. I pray for justice, that those who betray the vision held for us by our collective divinities pay the price for their missteps. I pray for the best possible outcome in the reality that we currently face, not the reality that we sometimes wish we had. I pray not for the Orisha to cover the world in aso funfun, but to bring forth Esu’s vision of the best possible outcome given what we have created for ourselves. I pray for Esu’s wisdom, that He grant me the ability to see myself and my world with His eyes so that I may fulfill His vision for me, and the vision dreamed by all my divinities.

May each of us wake from our individual sleep knowing our personal truths and seeing our world for how it treats each of us, with the wisdom and bloody compassion of Esu in our hearts and minds.


~ by Alex on December 5, 2015.

One Response to “No Justice, No Peace”

  1. This is SO powerful! Thank you for writing it. I definitely needed to hear this.

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