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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.


A Watchman's Words said...

Thank you for writing this Pastor Scott. This was a breath of fresh air. The Lord bless you & keep you

Unknown said...

Thank you for this outstanding post. I agree with it in entirety. The bottom line is the sovereignty of God, and His sovereign control over the affairs of men. Let us not step out from under that control because it does not fit our idea of fairness or what we think should have been the outcome.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Bobby, for your helpful comments.

Anita Manthe said...

Thank you for your comment, I will pass it on.

Unknown said...

I was saddened that what you wrote, "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." seems to be the sentiment that the African American community holds. I feel that is so far from the truth. I try and put myself in the shoes of African American male but probably will never fully be able to. I have a lot of African American friends and own a business and have African American employees and do see that they are treated differently as sales people within the community. (A problem I feel will ultimately be solved by the African American community changing from within and the Caucasian community changing the way they think)

I feel that because African American people truly believe that justice won't work for them that when incidences occur like the death of Trayvon Martin that the community has a difficult time looking at things objectively. Yes, Trayvon Martin was profiled. Yes George Zimmerman should have stayed in his car and is no angel but the evidence, as you mentioned, returned the verdict that it did. I don't know and not sure if anyone will ever know who started the altercation but all the jury had to go on is the evidence that was before them. It does seem wrong that Zimmerman didn't get punished in some way for his bad choices.

FINALLY; I think it is sad that Trayvon..... and a lot of African American community has indeed succumbed to the worst parts of hip hop culture and the violent parts of gangster rap. I feel that HIP HOP AND RAP has greatly affected the African American community in such a negative way. There is a vicious cycle going on. African American's are embittered because they are being profiled and looked at with suspicion so they act out AND society keeps profiling African Americans because they are acting out. I think one good way for this to change is for 2 voices of leadership to rise up. One in the African American community preaching that the cycle needs to break. Telling African American males to conduct themselves in certain self respecting ways from speech to clothing choices AND another leader in the Caucasian community telling people to stop prejudging young black men and to give them a chance, only judging them based on the content of their character. I am an imperfect human and can only hope that these comments will be taken in the spirit I intended them to be taken. I know as a hispanic man living in America that I have my own biases and can't completely be 100% objective regardless of my best efforts.

Anonymous said...

Daniel R. I appreciate your insight.

Pastor Bobby Scott said...

Daniel, thank you. Your open, honest, objective response was exactly the kind of response I was hoping this piece would generate. In order to work through cultural differences, people on both sides have to be willing to honestly state their differences, without the fear of being rejected.

And I actually agree with 95% of what you wrote. It helps when employers make the honest observation that all their employees aren’t treated equally, and that subcultures to the main culture make it harder to be accepted when they insist on dressing themselves as the rebellious elements of their culture. I was with my family one day in a predominantly white community and saw an African American employee at a grocery store whose pants were all the way under his rear. I almost got out of my car to confront him to pull them up. I told my kids there is no way he came dressed to the interview like that and now that he had the job, he put his employer in a bind not wanting to seem racist for making him pull them up. Our black young men would do well to learn not to identify themselves visually as wannabe gangstas.

One last point regarding my “bullet in the heart” comment and “if you’re black justice won’t work for you” comment. You might want to go back and re-read that in the context of my entire piece. I was afraid of making this piece as long as I did and start off the way I did fearing some would stop reading. But Daniel, that’s the real history of African Americans—justice didn’t work for us, only against us. (If you don’t know examples I cited, please look them up). It was my gut response (and most black people’s) to hearing a black teen was shot and there was no arrest. The media played on the fears of our historical past. I was on vacation this week and had time to actually follow the case and as I wrote in my piece, I discovered the media manipulated me and other black people, and this wasn’t an example of a black man not getting a just hearing under the law.

However, to be honest, just like you observed that your employees get treated differently, black people still to this day get treated differently in our legal system.

A young man at my church who was the valedictorian of his High School class (he later went on to graduate from Stanford) was arrested because he was black and falsely charged of assault and theft. He was assumed to be a gangster-type. When in jail, they asked him what he wanted. He told them his schoolbooks because he didn’t want to fall further behind. In court the prosecutor had a side bar with the judge and fortunately acknowledged that something was really wrong and that he wanted to talk to the accuser again. After contradicting herself, she completely withdrew her story when the prosecutor pressed her, and by God’s grace this one young black man, who was innocent, was released. Driving while black, walking while black, and just being black in America is still an issue and can make getting justice harder. But fortunately that didn’t happen in this case and doesn’t happen as often or as flagrantly. Having said that you’re are right, it doesn’t help that African Americans too easily take postures against our legal system. But I hope you understand why.

God bless you, Daniel. Thanks again for your response.

Emily Wentz Crooch said...

Everything you said in your posts and comments is so right on. This is the best and most honest synopsis of the situation I have read. I posted a link to it on my Facebook wall hoping my friends will read it. Thanks for such a thoughtful and insightful post!

gdtester said...

Bobby, I'm very surprised that you are judging Trayvon so harshly. You are assuming what the white majority assumes, his school record, his choice of music and his clothes, define him and also tell us what happened on that dark night.
I don't believe that Trayvon is very different from most of the black boys his age. And most of them aren't committing crimes, selling drugs, or attacking armed community watch volunteers. Most are just trying to navigate the community "WE" brought them into.

Trayvon was not angry, he was happily talking to a friend. He was minding his own business. He met a angry nut job in the dark who had a gun. Only Zimmerman knows what happened after that. And according to Florida law, that's all we need to know. That may satisfy you and Pat Robinson, but not me.

Who speaks for Trayvon?

Pastor Bobby Scott said...

I'm not satisfied that another young black teenager is dead. I think it's fair to say the majority (black, white or brown) sees this as a tragedy. My suggestion that he was angry came from the evidence of calling Zimmerman a creepy blank and the evidence of Zimmerman’s broken nose and head injuries. I’m not suggesting that becoming angry at being profiled is wrong, but I learned the hard way as a teenager that fights can end badly as this one did. And when the prosecution can’t show who threw the first punch, who was on top, who screamed for help, then TRAGICALLY no one can know for sure what happened, and the only legal verdict that can be rendered is not guilty. I am not at all happy about that, and it is not a satisfying conclusion for everyone, but it is the legal one under our law. And I in no way think that the color of the majority changed the lack of evidence the prosecution had, nor in this case, what the law required. I happened to be on vacation the last couple of weeks and had too much time to watch the trial. Fair-minded people can disagree, but I think the jury responded legally to the evidence and the instructions they were given. Praying for Trayvon’s family.

Andrew_Sauveur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew_Sauveur said...

You speak of the technical "legal" outcome as if it's sacred. I get that there is little we can do to reverse what has happened because we must abide by our legal system, but you seem so dismissive of the whole issue because well... it was all legally sound. Justice may have been served as defined by our legal system, but was God's justice served?

OBloodyHell said...

Very nice, sir, but I fear your message will be as ill-received as Bill Cosby's when he asked many of the same questions.

But it's always good to hear someone who Gets It even when the media and the racists out there are determined to make it about the Black guy being victimized by the lighter-skinned "kinda white" guy.

I believe both of them screwed up. This led to a tragedy. As you say, not all tragedies involve broken laws or criminal acts.

As an attorney said, "It was already a tragedy. Thankfully, it didn't become a travesty."

I believe that racism in whites reached a proper nadir when The Cosby Show aired and became the number one show on TV -- it could only do this if the whites in this nation, by and large, were fully willing to accept and enjoy stories about a prosperous black family, led by a black doctor and his professional wife. Were white prejudice a fraction of what it is often painted as, they would not accept those roles as they did. And it cannot be claimed that the comedy centered on them being black -- it centered on them being PEOPLE. Again, the nadir of racism was shown.

Since that time, the race hustlers and the charlatans and quacks have crawled out of their vile little hiding places and ginned up the minority to believe that they've all been victimized somehow because of their status.

The real question is not why blacks are so poor. It's why those of oriental descent -- who were treated little better following the Civil War than blacks -- including segregated bathrooms and water fountains and shabby treatment on work details -- yet somehow, despite that same poor start and uphill battle, the descendants of those people have not only done well for themselves but many, if not all, do better on average than whites. The black community should be asking "how that is?" What did those of oriental decent do that blacks did not?

Perhaps in that lies the answer to the black situation...

Pastor Bobby Scott said...

Andrew, God's justice will be served. "For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil," Ecc 12:14

But until then "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God," 1 Cor 4:5.

J Wilks said...

A lot of what you're saying is true... and a lot is media BS. Those poll numbers are ludicrous... how can blacks be the most racist when we're only 13 percent of the American population? If I were you I would not give credence to such mindless drivel as a man of God... you and I know that the media reports what they want, and studies are usually conducted with a certain result in mind. I agree most religions are divided and that we need more diversity and less stereotypical "black congregation white congregation" bias. What I do not agree with is how you defame a dead BOY. Not even a man, a boy, based on pictures that, as a black suburbanite, I can attest could be attributed to ANY teenager, not just one affected by "hip hop". Rap is a negative influence, but so is Heavy/Death Metal, alternative, rock, country... Contemporary music is full of bad misleading messages. Issue is the MEDIA has no problem showing our black faces as evil and playing up the bad guy image attached... it's always easier for the majority to blame problems on us, and by your dissection of the young Trayvon Martin, you give them a free pass instead of calling such people to task for judging a BOY based on his immature acts. Doesn't the book say foolishness is tied up in the heart of a boy? Should said foolishness be used a reason to kill? Furthermore how can you say these things, when at the very least, we can tell George Zimmerman is an opportunistic liar? Sadly, the jury was even less concerned with 'justice' and more concerned with law... swayed by paid witnesses and family members obviously coached to lie. Doesn't God disapprove of those with false scales? This whole trial was a travesty, paraded to look like justice, and it saddens me that you would shift blame to Trayvon and rap music, when the fact is that Florida law and the injustice system are most to blame. NOTHING shows George Zimmerman clearly had a case for self defense, aside from his superficial wounds and his version of the story. How a person can admit to doing something and then claim self defense... and then the burden is on the prosecution to prove it WAS NOT self defense... that is the stupidity of the law itself. That you can use something as an excuse and not have to prove it.

J Wilks said...

Ultimately it is up to God to rectify the situation, and I know he will, but he also tells us to be just, upright, and speak truth. What you say here leaves the blame on Mr Martin, when he was doing nothing wrong, and takes blame from Zimmerman, who as an adult and neighborhood watch should have been far more responsible. It reinforces his God dishonoring statement that it "was God's plan." And it's bound to set the stage for more racial violence, because after this, were it not for my Christianity, I would train my children on firearm usage and teach them that if someone follows you in a threatening fashion, you should shoot them before they shoot you. That precedent has been set by this irresponsible jury... we already have another child murderer awaiting trial, for killing another innocent black kid... with guess what? A gun, claiming he was in fear for his life.

Stop giving the majority and biased infrastructure a pass and impeaching Mr Martin and rap music. If you're going to hold them accountable, you need to hold Florida, Sanford police, and a biased,cowardly jury equally accountable for the death of a boy who's biggest fault was school suspension. Hold Mr Zimmerman accountable for his callous and creepy attitude... you don't think his acquittal is going to lead to more armed and dangerous Neighborhood watches? You don't think that if Zimmerman was still him, and Travon was Becky Martin, he wouldn't have been nailed to the cross and imprisoned at the maximum?

In short, no we will NEVER get along, so long as profiling people BEFORE they commit crimes is accepted. As long all lives are not treated with equal worth. As long as people can make irresponsible decisions leading to the death of others, and then be allowed to walk free. We should never accept this, and should argue, yell and demand legislation that ensures people be held responsible. God will ultimately resolve things, but that doesn't give us a pass to lay down and wait for his hand to magically affect change. He gives strength to deal with an resolve things, not always a hands on resolution.

SAY WHAT? said...

George 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." I'd like to focus attention on these three sentences spoken by George Zimmerman to the Sanford PD on the night that he fatally shot Trayvon Martin. In the first two sentences, he indicates that Trayvon is "up to no good" or "he's on drugs or something." But then, in the last sentence, he states, " "he's just walking around, looking about". Do the inherent contradictions of these three statements strike anyone else as odd? If I were to examine these three statements in a stand-alone fashion, I would be extremely hard-pressed to make an assumption that Trayvon was doing anything suspicious. Does walking around in the rain, looking about, deem anyone as "up to no good" or "on drugs or something?" That's not usually my first thought when seeing someone walking around in the rain.

Pastor Bobby Scott said...

J. Wilks we both share a passion for our African American community. That doesn’t mean we have to agree on every point. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. And I thank you for yours.

Let me start where we agree because on many significant points we will. Zimmerman was wrong! His actions were inexcusable!

Something is dreadfully wrong when: (1) a boy who is walking home is profiled as engaging in a criminal activity (2) is unarmed and ends up being shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman who claims he could do nothing else to save his life.

And, yes, the laws of Florida must be reviewed and changed to prevent something like this from happening again. In a world were Michael Vick shoots his dogs and goes to jail, Plaxico Burress shoots himself and goes to jail, A Florida woman, Marissa Alexander, fires a warning shot to “stand her ground” in self-defense and is sentenced for 20 years, and a 17 yr old boy gets in a fight with a man who follows him and is shot dead and he doesn’t get any jail time.

But wanting laws changed and arguing that everyone who applies the laws we have is wrong are not the same thing.

This is where we disagree.

1st “You don't think his acquittal is going to lead to more armed and dangerous Neighborhood watches? Not really. My fear was that the verdict would incite black teens to act out and attack innocent White and Hispanic people. And personally my greatest fear for my children will remain young black men wearing hoodies, not Hispanic and white neighborhood watchmen. So I’ll train my kids to pick up on signs from bloods and crips and not to dress in hoodies so that they are not shot by mistaken drive-bys.

2nd Sadly, the jury was even less concerned with 'justice' and more concerned with law... swayed by paid witnesses and family members obviously coached to lie. Doesn't God disapprove of those with false scales? Romans 13 teaches Christians to obey and submit to the government. I am first a Christian and second a black American, and in America, justice is arrived at by following laws—laws that teach those charged of crimes are innocent until proven guilty and when not proven guilty by the law, they are acquitted. Remember O.J.? Only God’s verdict will be perfect and He will render His at the end.

3rd I am not a Zimmerman apologist and it is not my intent to defame Trayvon. But the greatest problem in the black community isn’t white America. We are losing our sons and we have to figure out why. Earlier this year a 17 and 13 year old threatened a woman to give them her money or they would shoot her 13 month old baby. She cried she didn’t have money and they shot her baby in the face. Just this week Lil Wayne released a tract that rapped “beat the p_ssy like Emmett Till.” I’ve never heard more vile lyrics. I can’t apologize for the gutters that gangsta rap crawls. Its misogynistic, self-degrading, violence glorifying lyrics are poisoning the souls of our youth. I love black culture but everything about it isn’t beautiful.

But in saying this I’ve digressed from my point. As tragic as this situation is in a nation of laws, we have to follow our laws, apply our laws and lawfully change our laws.

I sincerely pray that God blesses you in the raising of your children. I have six of my own. These are challenging times.

Andrew_Sauveur said...

Pastor Bobby, yes God's justice will be served in the end. That is no reason to have such a dismissive attitude towards injustice today.

Pastor Bobby Scott said...

Andrew, the actual point I labored to make was this is not a case of injustice just like the OJ verdict wasn't. When the prosecution can't prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt then the just verdict "for man" has to be not guilty. (God can see evidence we can't.) Otherwise, we'd have a police state where the political powers could and would through anyone in jail they wanted.

Andrew_Sauveur said...

Oh I don't disagree with that at all if I'm speaking solely within the context of our legal system. In which case yes it was just. But holistically I cannot say the same.