I’ve waxed eloquently about issues of race and prejudice on this blog before. If you read that before reading this, it will give you better perspective on this perspective, but whatever.
The killing of Trayvon Martin and the exoneration of his self-confessed killer, George Zimmerman, is serving to spark a civil rights outcry the likes of which I can’t remember since the Rodney King beatings. Like millions of other Americans, I was disappointed and saddened by the jury’s verdict, though I also understand that the jury operated within the confines and according to the laws of Florida. But after today hearing Anderson Cooper’s interview with juror B37, I’m downright angry.
If you want to see the ten and a half minute version of the interview, here it is:
Here’s a quick review of the story. For a full review, click here.
1. Trayvon Martin, a seventeen year old black kid with a hoodie on — whose dad lived in the gated communty wherein he was killed — left his dad’s house and walked to a convenience store to buy some stuff.
2. On the return walk, a neighborhood watch volunteer — George Zimmerman — saw him walking through the neighborhood and decided he looked suspicious.
3. Zimmerman called police who told him to remain in his car and not follow the young man.
4. Instead, Zimmerman got out of his car and pursued Martin who was freaked out by being followed.
5. We know he was freaked out by being followed because he was talking on the phone to a friend of his who overheard the beginning of the confrontation.
6. According to Zimmerman, Martin confronted him and then assaulted him, causing Zimmerman to fear for his life, pull his sidearm and shoot Martin causing his death.
I get that the laws of the state of Florida — as completely asinine as I deem them to be — on some level or another allow for the murder of a person to take place as long as the killer deems their life is in danger, which seems to me a wildly subjective concept, easily manipulated. The jury’s decision was in accord within the parameters of these laws. I still don’t know what Trayvon Martin was supposed to do, though.
I also know that no person can get inside the head/heart of George Zimmerman to determine whether or not the murder he committed he was racially motivated, though I think this commentary from the smart and blatantly biased Daily Show makes some interesting points:
I’m very disturbed by the fact that, according to Juror B37, it seems their decision was based on emotion, identification with and sympathy for George Zimmerman. “His heart was in the right place” and “he’s learned a tough lesson” shouldn’t cut it. A seventeen year old kid is dead. I don’t care where his heart was, there was no reason to pull that trigger. Get the proverbial crap beaten out of you if you must, but don’t kill a teenager, even a strong one. If Juror B37 had simply said, “Look here’s the law, it is what it is, there’s no way around it and he’s not guilty”, fine…I don’t like it, but I can’t argue with it. Emotion and sympathy though, that’s different.
Over and through all of this, though, here’s what bothers me most: we continue to be a deeply divided and hateful people. The results of this are far-reaching and destructive. Many African American people are enraged, and I understand that to the point I am capable. Yet again, here is another light-skinned aggressor pursuing and killing yet another young black man; the former is then acquitted of confessed murder in the name of self-defense for which the perpetrator was the lone true witness of the events because the other guy is dead.
It’s frustrating to me when white people tell black people — directly or indirectly — that they shouldn’t feel the way they do about racism, or they roll their eyes regarding this particular Martin-Zimmerman case because they don’t see how race ever got to be part of the issue at hand. Look, if this case is not the same story that it’s been for the past 250 years of light-skinned people oppressing dark-skinned people, then fine. But I’m not going to act like those last 250 years didn’t happen and I’m sure as heck not going to judge the African American community for reacting as though that is what may have happened.
What is to be done? The history of this country is real and white men have oppressed and discriminated against black people, red people, yellow people and all women for the majority of that history.
Yeah, I know — that wasn’t you. I get it. It wasn’t me either. I too do not want to wear a scarlet letter for being a white man, or perpetually apologize and/or grovel for the actions of a whole group of people I did not know, am not connected to and did not in any way form me to be who I am today. To be blunt, you are wrong to ask me to carry that. But I am not Trayvon Martin, nor am I any of his ancestors who may have experienced widespread racism, particularly in the South. I’m no fan of affirmative action, not because it isn’t a good idea, but because it’s idealistically impossible in a fallen world filled with fallen humans. This whole situation is what it is, and quite frankly, when it comes to doing something about racism in our history and our present day, I feel as though we’re at something of an impasse. Ignoring it doesn’t help, we can’t just move past it or get over it, and human leader attempts at conversation and reconciliation seem to do as much good for the general public as peace talks in the Middle East.
In the presence of such a condemning history and such a malicious present, you’ll have to forgive my own idealistic suggestion. Forgiveness and righteousness through the blood of Jesus. That’s what I got.
The sin of racism offends on two fronts. First, there is a spiritual blessing given to every image-bearer that is the sanctity of the human life God placed in every human, no matter their skin color or racial background. When that image of God is wronged through hate or racial prejudice or discrimination based on skin color, it is a spiritual offense against the government of God. Forgiveness is the only thing that can make that spiritual offense right. That sin deserves death, but Jesus took that sin on Himself, suffering the full penalty it requires. Again and again and again and again, the forgiveness of Jesus during and through His death on the cross is what can right the spiritually legal offense of racism.
Secondly, there is an emotional consequence of sin that is shame. Shame is the feeling associated with missing the mark, not measuring up, not getting it right. There is a spiritual blessing given to every image-bearer that is the sanctity of the human life God placed in every human, no matter their skin color or racial background. When that image of God is wronged through hate or racial prejudice or discrimination based on skin color, it is a spiritual offense against the heart of God. We have missed His mark and there is a heavy emotional consequence. The emotional weight of the shame of racism then can only be alleviated through the righteousness of Christ who became a curse for us and gave us His righteousness. Again and again and again and again, the righteousness of Jesus during and through His death on the cross is that can remove the emotional consequence of racism.
At our core, we are all the same. Division and hate are the tools of evil to drive humanity to is own destruction. We will never avoid that destruction with our plans, schemes and attempts; our history proves that time and time again. It is time to take this the only place that offenses and shame of this magnitude can be redeemed and relieved: the cross of Jesus.