Monday, July 15, 2013
The Trayvon Martin Tragedy: Will We Ever Get Along?
The Trayvon Martin Tragedy: Will We Ever Get Along?
By Pastor Bobby Scott
Matt. 2:18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.”
Another black teenager is dead. Another Rachel, another mother, and another family grieves. When his known killer was not arrested, half of a nation reeled in anger and disbelief that it happened again. Another Emmett Till, a modern day Birmingham four, another Latasha Harlins, another bullet in the heart that if you’re a black American, justice won’t work for you because your life’s not worth it. When I first heard “no arrest,” I was stunned. I couldn’t process how such an injustice could happen today. Doesn’t everyone know that we can’t let our history repeat itself? Isn’t this an obvious travesty of justice? Can’t everyone see that if any black man shot a white teenager he would be put underneath the jail?
But here’s the challenge, history is real, but living in the past distorts the realities of the present.
A recent Rasmussen poll concluded that
“Americans consider blacks more likely to be racist than whites and Hispanics in this country.” According to the survey, 37% of American adults think most blacks are racist.” Stunningly the report showed that blacks consider blacks to be the most racist group in America. “Among black Americans, 31% think most blacks are racist, while 24% consider most whites racist and 15% view most Hispanics that way.”
And not surprisingly, “There is a huge ideological difference on this topic. Among conservative Americans, 49% consider most blacks racist, and only 12% see most whites that way. Among liberal voters, 27% see most white Americans as racist, and 21% say the same about black Americans.”
I live in a black community, and I don’t have the luxury of assessing the dangers of living in my community through rose, I mean black, tinted glasses. Being able to criminally profile is wise. There is a significant dangerous segment of my community. It typically comes from young black males who’ve lost their way (Prov 1:10-33). I have personally chased down teenagers who were committing crimes. I’ve had helicopters flashing spotlights in my yard because black men were hiding nearby, and cops swarming my block looking for young black men engaging in criminal behavior. I’ve officiated and attended funerals where black young men have killed young black men. All Americans need to be concerned about the real and present crisis of the growing number of criminally minded young black men in America. That’s not racism - that’s realism. And we have to stop ignoring it like the black elephant in the corner of the room.
However, acting as if the past were the present, politicians posing as reverends exclaimed injustice! They stoked fears of racism. They incited anger. They attacked a man’s presumption of innocence. They assumed rather than learned all the facts. As judge, jury, and hangman armed with media reports, they led a charge to arrest a man whom the police released because their investigation of the evidence showed that he acted in self-defense. Second degree murder charges! An arrest was made! And justice (for them) was being served.
But now another mother and family grieves. And half of a nation reels in disgust that it was happening again. Political correctness gone amuck. Reverse racism disguised as justice fueled by a biased media. A Hispanic man is now white. 911 recordings doctored to make him a racist.
Here’s the NBC version:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.
Here’s the actual unedited transcript:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.
Justice for all requires justice be served in the courts and not the media, and not by race baiters, but by the evidence gathered by law enforcement officials and in court.
Nevertheless, a trial was pursued and a verdict reached confirming the initial police findings—not guilty. Justice was served. Trayvon isn’t Emmett Till or Latasha Harlins. This isn’t that. Tragically, it appears through Trayvon’s Twitter and Facebook world that he had succumbed to the worst parts of the hip hop culture—the violent worldview of gangsta rap. He was in Sanford because his school suspended him, and painfully, his mother had to put him out of her house. And George Zimmerman . . . he was a fool for not waiting for the police and when a fool meets an angry person, tragedies happen. Sadly, when the evidence of those tragedies are presented in court and applied according to the law by jurors, the result is that all tragedies aren’t illegal. No law-abiding person likes it when someone is killed, but in the case of Trayvon Martin vs. George Zimmerman, a law-based legal verdict was reached.
Yet our nation still stands divided. After all these years and all of our race wars, Rodney King’s question still remains, “Can we all get along?” Why the divide? The answer is so obvious it eludes us. America responds like a divided nation because we are a divided nation. We always have been and might always be. Martin Luther King’s rebuke of America still goes unheeded. “Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. . . . Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Our fears divide us. We need to engage in relationship building: to listen to one another, to learn to understand our fears, to stop stereotyping, but to be real, to build trust. And we can’t go forward until we go back and acknowledge that we’ve never fixed our race divide. Tragically, the most segregated hour of the week is still Sunday morning. And relationship building must start first with the church. Christians must model that we can all get along. I know of too many white churches that have never had a black preacher in their pulpit. I know of too many black churches that have never had a white preacher in their pulpit. But I am hopeful. I am a black preacher who as a child grew up in an all black community in Newark, New Jersey then moved to a Remember-the-Titans-like self-segregating community in Virginia. Yet this summer I will have preached for a predominantly white church in Burbank California, an Asian Church in Orange County, a Hispanic Church in East LA, and today I just picked my kids up today from Compton from a camp with a church from South Central.
Jesus died to reconcile sinners to God and sinners to sinners (Gal 3:28). We can all get along but only through new life in Jesus, and through faith that moves us to love our neighbors.
Jesus said “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
The alternative. Our worst fears of racial hatred will continue to be powered by our ignorance and denials of reality, and our worst nightmares of race wars will become our reality. However, we aren’t doomed to fatalistic failure. We have choices. We will make choices, and our choices will have consequences. May God help us all, and may God bless America.