I have been sitting at my computer screen trying to figure out how to put into words what is swimming in my head and churning in my heart. I have started, stopped, deleted and begun again several times. I don’t think there are words, but here they are nonetheless.
As a Black man, who grew up around Black people most of my life, who majored in African-American Studies in college, who works with a Christian non-profit to help reach Black college students, I must confess, I am torn:
– As a Christian. My heart goes out to the Martin family. Their son is gone. Nothing will change that. Travyon’s life has been cut short. His departure for an Arizona Tea and skittles from the store would be the last time his parents would see him alive. No parent is meant to bury a child, regardless of ethnicity. Their faith remains but so does the pain. My heart goes out to George Zimmerman as well. I do not believe he is as guilty or as innocent as he is made out to be (more on this later). His life, too, will never be same. He will have to move, change his appearance, virtually disappear from public for the rest of his life. The venom that spews on social media pages when the names of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman are mentioned is appalling. It is a chilling reminder that both “we war not against flesh and blood” and that “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” All sins, even the ones we don’t like must be laid at the foot of the cross of Jesus. It is my faith that I must hold on to as I am a Christian first, and then whatever society has chosen to label me.
– As a Campus Minister. I believe college is a pivotal moment in a person’s life. People are wet cement in college. Learning, discovering who they are and who they want to become. Ages 18-22, people are soaking in everything, but soon thereafter, that wet cement will harden and most will become who they will be for the rest of their lives. I work to advance ministry to Black college students in Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. My hope and belief is God has sent me here to accomplish this task. Trayvon was 17. He didn’t make it to college. We don’t know if he would have. Mainstream media has portrayed him as a marijuana-using, quick-tempered “troubled youth,” and probably not a college candidate. (I know and had classmates that did “worse” than Trayvon in character and accomplished more during and out of college than I have.)
How do I reconcile that? As I pray for the class of 2017, I pray knowing there is an empty chair in a classroom, a bible study he will never fill. How do I mentor students I serve that are his age? How do I help the staff I serve have these conversations with Black students?
– As a Black Man. My heart is heavy. It was five years ago I wept when the nation elected a bi-racial president whose skin complexion resembled mine. It was an achievement of a dream I didn’t believe possible. It was a time when Black grandparents and parents wept with joy because the road of integration, civil rights and equality culminated with a bi-racial man married to the descendant of a slave being sworn into the highest office in the land, on steps that were laid by slaves. Five years later, I see and hear those same parents and grandparents being reminded of what life was like for them when they were Trayvon’s age (17) and my age (30).
I am not here to argue the trial or the court’s decision, but to extrovert the consequences.
Nathaniel Hawthorne in his timeless classic, The Scarlett Letter, says in the first chapter, “In our nature, there is a provision, alike marvelous and merciful, that the sufferer should never know the intensity of the pain to which he endures by its present torture, but by the pang that rankles after it.”
Life will return to normal for many people in a few days. Conversations will be had this week on if people agreed or disagreed with the court’s decision and why. We may discuss the strangeness of Florida (i.e. 2000 Presidential Election, Casey Anthony, now George Zimmerman—no disrespect Floridians as Texas has some strange cases, too).
But life as a Black person, particularly me as a Black man, will never be the same. This court case has reaffirmed that I cannot go alone into environments where I am the only Black person, especially at night. I must dress my best at all times, even when I go to buy candy from the store. If someone questions my presence at any location, they are now justified to be the police. They can follow me (even when the police say not to), question me, and I cannot do anything. If I become angry for being followed, if a fight for whatever reason begins, my life can be taken away without consequence.
Black people didn’t rally behind the Martin family simply because they were Black. We…I rallied behind them because I have been Trayvon. I am followed in the grocery store, department stores, the mall, neighborhoods. I am regularly pulled over, followed by the police more times than I care to comment (in different cities, too…and no tickets or accidents in over 5 years). My first day in Austin, Texas a UTPD police officer walked toward me with his hand on his gun to confirm I was an enrolled student at the University of Texas at Austin as he thought I was robbing my white roommate of his bicycle. He confirmed my identity and never asked for my roommates.
I am not oblivious to the plight of young Black men today. Many of them are without fathers, angry and have a host other issues that I have dealt with and deal with daily. I do not believe George Zimmerman was a prejudiced man looking for trouble. I do believe there was an innocent, unarmed teenager who was followed by someone carrying a gun and felt it was his civic duty to protect the neighborhood where the police had failed. He bought into what the media sells, which is a kid in the hoodie has to be up to no good. Escalation, a fight, and now there’s dead teenager at the hands of a man who claimed self-defense. As one pastor said, “How cool would it be to live in a world where Zimmerman offers Trayvon a ride home to get him out of the rain that night?”
After the court’s decision, I was up until 1:30am talking with four other friends—Black friends—about our experiences on cross-cultural interactions—the good, the bad and the downright painful.
Reading books, having conversations, these things are helpful, but much like they limit how much I can learn about one culture, so too do they limit what it means to be Black in this country.
Being Black in America means there is a consistent, negative portrayal of our culture in the media. We are dehumanized, portrayed as out of control, uneducated, dangerous menaces to society—only. Rarely positive, never accurate portrayals of the totality of Black culture. We are violent and prone to riot, but can be killed if someone…anyone feels we are in the wrong place and their lives are in danger. It means a proclivity towards higher arrests (not that Blacks commit more crimes as they make up only 11% of the US population), but because we are arrested more frequently and sentenced for lengthier terms than our white counterparts (read The New Jim Crow by: Michelle Alexander). It means changing my clothes, my walk, my very speech pattern when in cross-cultural environments to honor those around me at the sacrifice of my own culture, regardless whether that sacrifice is higher in some places and lower in others.
It is an invitation to be misunderstood at every level, in every conversation.
And it is the cross we as Black people are called to bear.
My fear is that we will have to bear this cross in its entirety, until the return of Jesus himself.
117 thoughts on “Reflections on Being a Black Man in America”
Beautifully and thoughtfully written, Sean. Thank you for your insight. Many need to hear it.
Great article. Really love your balanced perspective. Quick point of correction though…President Obama himself is not a descendant of an African American slave. His father was a Kenyan student in the US and his mother is White Caucasian. Great read otherwise.
Thanks! Was typing too fast…or forgot! Either way, corrected and grateful. On both counts.
Re: Correction Actually, President Obama’s lineage on his mother’s side has been traced to the first documented African slave in pre-revolutionary America.
Joseph “Shumway was part of a team of four genealogists who say they worked more than 500 hours to establish the connection between Obama’s family and that of John Punch, an indentured servant who was sentenced to a life of slavery after an unsuccessful escape attempt in colonial Virginia.”
I originally stated he was a descendant of slaves and was corrected.
I will check-in to your update as well. For now, there a descendants of slaves in the White House, one way or another.
Actually, Sean never said that Obama was a descendent of an African American slave. He referred to Obama as a bi-racial man married to a descendent of a slave.
Right. Thank you for your this article,
I had to go back and reread the article. It says that Obama is “a bi-racial man married to the descendant of a slave”. So Michelle is the descendant of a slave. I agree the article was great and it gave me something to ponder.
Sean, thanks for this excellent post.
Thank you for sharing this, Sean.
This challenged me as I have to admit a piece of me is glad for what Zimmerman will now face in the world. It also brings me a fresh wave of grief and tears as I again take in the experience of a Black man in America. I have no words…I can only join the earth in groaning for Christ’s return, setting up His Kingdom, where all of this injustice will be wiped away and ALL will truly walk free.
Thank you for writing and sharing this. It is by far the best and most important commentary I have read on the the specific Martin/Zimmerman case, as well as the larger, chronic issue of the dangerous and chronically distorted perceptions of blacks, especially black males, as perceived by non-blacks, especially whites.
Thank you for a thoughtful post.
VERY WELL WRITTEN MY BROTHER
we have to have a national conference on race because this cannot continue
Very well written my brother
I really enjoyed your thoughts on this issue. My heart breaks for Trayvon’s family at their lost. I also grieve for those jurors who will also be vilified for their decision. I grieve for our country as we continue to struggle with these issues, but my Brother, this is not a white/black issue, this is a sin issue. We can bet that this will continue because man in sintful and will do things, both black, white, Hispanic, Asian or whatever race, creed or religion we belong to, that our seen as reprehensible. The only problem I have with your thoughts is the way you say that there are no positive portrayals of black men in the media. I would agree with this partially because I believe that the media sometimes focuses on the portrayals of black men presented by many other black men. The things that are celebrated by the black community as a whole, not you personally. There are positive black men to focus on, but many times in the those men are degraded by the media and black leaders because they do not follow the ideas that the NAACP or other primarily black organizations promote. The black community cannot celebrate men who brag of their sexual conquests, or that they are a thug and then expect the white community to say, oh, that is not who is really the black man. They are celebrated. I would argue that men like yourself should be celebrated, but are marginalized because you are Christian or because you do not do the things celebrated by many in the black community. I do pray for racial harmony in this country, but until we begin to recognize the men who truly do deserve praise and not raise up the men who push the media portrayal of black men, I do not think that is possible, As a Christian, I want men who represent that way of life to be the media portrayal of black, white, Hispanic or Asian men and women.
Once again, thank you for your thoughtfulness on this subject and many will not agree with my comments, but let us begin a conversation. I love all men because my God commanded me to in His Word. Let us start with love and I think we may have a chance.
Very well said.
Dear sir, I am saddened by your reply. Primarily, because, you think the “black community” condones the negative portrayals of black men and black families portrayed in media, music and or television. I am saddened that you actually believe what you see on television and have allowed television to be the litmus test for authenticity. Your preconceived notions about the black community are part of the problem. These notions are why “institutionalized racism” is so hard to eradicate even in the faith community. First, the television shows you referenced are not minority owned, Viacom owns BET, in America degradation in any form- sells, and entertainers often portray a life and lifestyle that is contrary to real life. Second, black Americans are not monolithic, we are approximately 11-19 percent of the entire USA population, yet you have come to believe that the 1 percent ( of an entertainment element) represents us all. News programs often highlight the disenfranchised and poor, in our country this is not limited to Black people. When you believe that you overlook the crime, poverty and injustice in all communities. Think of the most objectionable, entertainers or criminals you can imagine that are white, and think of how you would feel if a seeming Christian person, lumped you in that category, every time you did something or did nothing. I encourage you to challenge yourself and your thoughts, by authentically engaging with actual black people in your community. Fellowship with several Black churches, attend their events, have coffee or lunch or dinner with a coworker or attend a Historically Black festival in your city or town. I am sure you don’t have to go far. We are everywhere. In the meantime, turn off the TV it is placing an undo burden on us and it does not affirm God’s word.
Thank you for your perspective. I live as a white woman with my husband in a predominantly black neighborhood and can sometimes get my views skewed and extrapolate behaviors I see here into the whole black population. I do not think of myself as racist in any way, have the Lord as my Savior, and too have discipled a black young woman on a campus here. We talked about these things you mentioned on the perceptions and alway having to make sure you do not look guilty of anything at all times. I always pray to see all people through His eyes, but know I sometimes fail. I find the frustration for me being that Treyvon is assumed not guilty because he was going for tea and skittles and Zimmerman was guitly because he was following him and had a gun. The assumption of the person not black as being misguided and racist is what I live with from day to day. As a white woman my intentions when I try to be helpful or friendly are always questioned – being seen as pity or duty or something, instead what I really want – that they would see Jesus in me. I know some awesome black people and some rotten white people and various mixtures of both. I just want to be Jesus’ hands and feet and for people to know Him – that is when this ends and grace rules, not perceptions or stereotypes. Lord, may this become true in my lifetime.
Well said, Kristin. I understand where you are coming from. I pray everyone will put down their preconceived notions, and learn to be more like Jesus.
Thanks Sean. I hope we could meet in person sometime to talk more about this. My heart has been heavy this week too. I’d like to learn more from great men like you.
I saw this via a friend’s sharing. Thank you for writing so honestly, fairly, and vulnerably. I am a 30 year old white woman and I am trying to take in all of the things you shared – of knowing you can’t be alone in an different area at night, having to always look put together, being followed and questioned and regarded with suspicion for no reason other than your skin. I can’t even take it in to fathom it right now. It makes me feel deep sorrow, and a lack of control. I don’t know if this will change in sweeping ways before Jesus comes, but until then I will pray, hurt, hope, and educate as much as God gives me power for. Thank you for helping to teach this still somewhat naive girl. I am grateful.
I really appreciate what you wrote and how you approach this complex topic through various lenses. We could learn a lot by asking ourselves WHY we believe something, not just WHAT we believe. I especially connected with the portion about racial profiling, because as a fellow 30 year old African American male, this may be the Equal Protection struggle of our lifetime.
One quick clarification: I saw your quoted the “battle not against flesh and blood,” as it is found in Scripture. But “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal” is not a quote from the Bible (there are similar verses), but rather lyrics from the song “Come, Ye Disconsolate” by Thomas Moore. Just a quick heads up. 🙂
Enjoyed your piece and appreciate you organizing what some may be thinking but may struggle to say.
Just beautifully written and well said.
Although its easy to forget them, I know I have prejudices of my own. After getting stirred up about all the posts I saw on Facebook last night about this case and its decision I enjoyed reading this post and hearing what Mr. Watkins had to say. The question that came into my mind after reading this article was what cross are Whites supposed to bear? Or any other race for that matter. Mr. Watkins mention of the cross that Blacks are called to bear seemed very reasonable to me, but what about other races? Does his sentence about such a cross put a barrier between races? If anyone has any respectful thoughts on this issue I’d appreciate them.
I can’t speak for all white people, of course, and I really don’t think it is as much of a cross to bear, per se, but it is frustrating to always be told you are a racist. I live in an area with a lot of Native Americans, and no matter how much I respect and honor their heritage (to the best of my ability, since I can’t know how it feels to walk in their shoes), I have to smile politely when obviously racist things are said to me. It doesn’t hurt less when a sentence starts with “you’re not like this, but white people are/do/think…” It also frustrates me when people use the term “reverse racism” as if only white people are capable of racism and any hatred towards us is an anomaly of some sort. I feel like I always have to prove that I’m NOT a racist, and I feel like I’m annoyingly saccharin and I can’t stand to be around myself! 🙂 I agree, too, with this author that the portrayal of different races by the media is appalling. I also don’t understand the dismissal of minorities that don’t fit that mold…that might not make sense, but I’m referring to people like Bill Cosby or Condaleeza Rice. I’ve heard them called “too white” and “Uncle Toms.” I don’t understand that. I suppose we all just have to keep praying for open hearts and minds and I, for one, will keep trying to understand the different crosses people bear…if it’s not race, it’s joblessness or childlessness or disease, or poverty, or any of the myriad of painful experiences that make up this life on earth. All of which makes us hopeful for the next life! 🙂 I hope that my response is respectful and thoughtful…I so often worry that what is written lacks the nuances of speech that make things so much easier to understand and take in the way they were meant. I mean no disrespect at all. Also, I realize these are more inconveniences, and not in any way the same thing as being a minority in America…I just wanted to put it out there.
Thank you, Dana. That was well said, and I hope it is listened to. We cannot have a conversation unless everyone learns to listen and evaluate their own perceptions in light of other people’s experiences. Everyone needs to stop prejudging other people’s intentions.
You have touched me to the core. As a brother in Christ, I feel the pain of a lost life before he has had a chance to become the man God intended. As a white man, I can’t even comprehend that racism still exists to the level you describe. I was blessed to be a Navy brat, so I was immersed in every culture and I’ve always considered myself “color blind.” I am also a conservative. And it makes me angry that, in the eyes of some, my beliefs are at odds with each other. I’ve let that stereotype blind me to the more serious issue. Racism is real. I cannot be defensive, but I can stand for all my beliefs. Thank you for pointing out that thia isn’t a matter of one man’s guilt or innocence, but a prevaling societal attitutude that still divides a nation. God bless you and keep up the good fight.
In no way do I intend to diminish the significance of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, but since the young man’s death last year, over 608,000 black babies have been killed by abortion. This is greater than the number of Black people killed by HIV/AIDS, diabetes, heart disease, accidents, and violent crimes combined. That Black Americans would get riled up over one Black child’s death and virtually ignore the legal death of millions of Black children since 1973 testifies to depravity of mind we suffer. This same depravity justifies legal abortions with the sentiment of “my body is mine alone.” As Christians, we know that our bodies are not ours alone, but the Lord’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Further, we know that the Bible clearly demonstrates that life begins well before birth (Genesis 2:7, Exodus 21:22, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:41), so we’re actually talking about two lives here (not including the father, other family members, and the community at large).
To non-Christians, these things are nonsensical. So as I speak with them, I have to decide to know nothing “except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Actually, among my “pro-choice” brothers and sisters the same applies. Only when we understand the Gospel that brings life will we be emboldened to fight against a culture that brings death.
Sean, I’d love to talk with your more about this in person when you have the time.
Amen. Excellent point on relative mortality amongst unbelievers.
Thank you for sharing Sean. And thank you for your work! I too am challenged by what you wrote. I am sorry, terribly sorry for the injustices you have endured. I truly can’t imagine what it is like to be a black man in America (I am white). Like you, there is much I want to say, too much. I so wish that the Church of Jesus Christ would be the model for healing and unity. But we too are so divided. Maranatha…
Thanks, Sean. This was a really really helpful post for me as I’m trying to sort out my responses from the weekend.
I’m not going to disagree with everything you say here. However, at the end of the day the black culture needs to stop placing blame and take a significant ownership of the problem. I am a 31-year old black male and am sick and tired of the entitlement mentality that has swept over us. Our culture is going downhill because there are no expectations for us, only excuses of how we can’t accomplish something because of racism. You say that, “Being Black in America means there is a consistent, negative portrayal of our culture in the media. We are dehumanized, portrayed as out of control, uneducated, dangerous menaces to society—only. Rarely positive, never accurate portrayals of the totality of Black culture. We are violent and prone to riot”. The problem is that is what our own black media is portraying as a “black leader”! They glorify rappers and tattooed up, spoiled athletes as the model to young black kids. They make it look cool to not be able to spell and use the N word and call women bitches and act violent. That’s how the black media portrays black people and the stereotype that THE BLACK MEDIA is putting out there that we’re all like. Then we get mad and blame white people for buying into what our black media representation is selling them. When someone like a RG3 comes along that happens to be a great role model for our kids because he goes to college and doesn’t curse and speaks educated he is called a cornball brother and uncle Tom by the black media. And our black “leaders’ like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are completely quiet because….gasp, RG3 is a Republican.
Racism exists on all sides. Blacks are racist towards whites too. It makes me sick. People with piercing and tattoos are watched closely in stores. Kids with autism are looked at funny. Please do our culture a favor by stopping the cries of racism at every corner! We cannot empower our culture by making them perpetual victims! We are not victims! We are a proud race than can accomplish anything we want just like any other race or ethnicity!
Thanks for your response. I took me a second to figure out which post you were responding to. “Reflections on Being a Black Man in America,” right? I agree with you, in part.
I do agree that we have significant problems in our community and we need to take ownership, responsibility and leadership in solving many of, if not all of those problems. It does make me sad we have perpetual issues that don’t need to be there, that we could solve with simple maturity and wisdom. I do agree our palate has changed and has difficulty recognizing a leader. Our kids don’t want to be presidents and CEOs, but rappers and basketball players. That has to stop. I am in complete agreement there.
However, I also believe we make up 12% of the population. There are some factors that are outside of our control. For example, the quality of education in the inner city. How does that change? We need to have educated people become city leaders to bring about change but the education system is broken and rarely produces leaders who can lead at that level. In business, let’s bring economic capital back into the community. How? We don’t support our own businesses. We don’t qualify for loans either because of bad credit (always having more month than money whether we live within a budget or now), or because as investigations still reveal because of unfair banking/lending practices.
Dr. John Perkins said it best, “We always tell people, ‘Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.’ That’s a lie. Whoever owns the pond determines who eats fish a when.”
We have many African-Americans who have made it, primarily because of entertainment, whether music or sports. But we don’t have the infrastructure/leadership take those resources and help the community. Additionally and honestly, your experience and my experience as Black men in this country is different from black kid growing up in Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Ferguson, etc. It’s not as blanket as I or you make it out to be.
My hopes in writing this article wasn’t to say “help all Black people.” Rather, I am trying to say, “We need to help each other AND the system needs to be fixed so that, if we don’t make it, there are no excuses.” Right now, there’s blame to go around.
Why the Christian or religious angle though? I feel the OP is making this a religious thing in the sense that only Christians are to mourn or have some interest in this case.
Thanks for your post.
I didn’t take a Christian angle. I am a Christian. I cannot respond in any other way but as a Christian.
The country–parts of it–is grieving now. Some grieve with hope, without hope. But hope for what result?
Scripture says, “We mourn but not as those who have no hope.” Our/my faith says it will not always be this way. Whether in this life or in heaven, there will be true racial-reconciliation. That’s what I believe. No angle. Just truth.
Ugh, Sean! You’re bringing up stuff I want to bury deep, deep down in my body, that God keeps trudging up. As always, so good to hear/read your words. May I continue to seek the cross as I deal with my own identity as a half black woman and how I choose to treat my own black community.
Calling, in my experience, God keeps bringing stuff up because He wants to deal with it – hurt feelings, forgiveness, anger, bitterness, weightlessness, etc. We keep going around that same mountain until we allow Him in to bring healing. Allow the Holy Spirit do do that work in you and set your spirit free.
That should say “Callina”. (I hate auto-correct!)
I wish, for the good of the Kingdom of God, we could set aside the wounds of the past that so many refuse to let go and allow to heal. I wish, for the good of the Kingdom of God, we could talk about race with the honesty and open mindedness it deserves. I wish, for the good of the Kingdom of God, that we could focus on the truth, in all things, no matter how inconvenient or hurtful we might find it. I wish, for the good of the Kingdom of God, that we could stop defining ourselves based on our race and instead define ourselves by our faith, hope, and freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But instead of these things, your post has drawn more lines that serve to divide us. Instead your post assumes too much, too liberally, the complexities of race relations in the United States of America. Instead, your post has presented a bias and unjust version of events.
I wish a great deal more for our country and our unity in Jesus Christ.
You say that you want truth. This is the truth of Sean’s experience. This is our brother who is hurting. Your criticism is so general. Where does he assume too much, etc.? If you aren’t specific you sound like someone who is willing to be divided, leaving no opportunity for understanding, healing or reconciliation. For the sake of the Kingdom I too wish we were much more unified. But that is hard deep work not just quick simple and easy. For hundreds of years whites for the most part stood by and watched (or benefitted) as blacks were delivered from one unjust system just to be thrown into another one. We cannot just demand our brothers and sisters in Christ just ‘let go and allow healing’ especially when injustices continue.
this blog was written in response to the Zimmerman trial verdict. this trial, Sean states, reaffirmed the injustice black Americans are stuck with on a daily basis. however, thus trial did not have to do with racism. that was a lie that became the truth.
I’m talking bout that truth. this shouldn’t be used as a podium to reflect on how racism still exists.
it should be a reflection on how and why the media and our leaders built a narrative of hatred and lies built to reopen wounds and divide us.
no one is talking about that truth.
no one seems to find this troubling.
Sean, thanks so much for sharing your perspective. It’s one that white people like myself don’t often hear, or even think about. So thank you for making us aware. I hope that we, and I, can cultivate a better awareness of these issues, and continue listening to fellow Christians of other cultural backgrounds. Blessings to you!
I am a white seminarian at one of the top Biblical seminaries in the country. I really appreciated reading your insights. May there be more that unites us than divides us. I’d love to hear back from you, if that’s possible. Take care; God bless.
This was a good, honest article. For years I (a white woman) was perplexed by the race issues in America. Even after moving to a black neighborhood, I felt that the younger white generations treated blacks equally. But then I got a job where I worked alongside blacks in a customer service setting. And had black customers as well as white. I saw how many of the whites would treat blacks. I learned from coworkers that this was not uncommon–this was their reality. I watched. And saw that they were right. I pray that with each generation we get closer and closer to equality. But we certainly are not there today.
I appreciate your insights a lot.
As a white person, I feel privileged to know some really amazing black folks who I respect tremendously and have been great friends and neighbors. Does that nullify any experiences or feelings you have had? No. I am very sorry that you have had them and that they must be really painful. It is my hope that we can move to a place where we can mourn any senseless murder as equally tragic regardless of race and social circles.
A couple days ago, I ran into this photo series from 2011 that brought me to tears. (You may already be aware of it, but this is new for me.) It documents the stories of people and families who were killed in the genocide who reconciled and became friends with those who committed the murders of their loved ones. (Personally, I can’t even imagine this as reality.) But it does show the tremendous power of the love of God when we allow forgiveness to pave the way. http://cnnphotos.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/07/%E2%80%98love-is-the-weapon-that-destroys-all-evil%E2%80%99/
From what I see and hear, there is a lot of anger and bitterness around me coming from all segments in our country and it seems to be growing. All I know is we as a people have a lot to learn from these people who have experienced unspeakable tragedy in Rawanda. I know I have much to learn from them.
Your article is excellent and i hope lots of people read it. It hurts to read – but i know i have to fight to change this, not give up or out, and i pledge to do that. i just want to say, this is one white person who wants my Black brothers and sisters safe and in full possession of the civil rights we are all supposed to get according to our American ideals – and that i know very well that you do not get. i will continue to work for that. i will not give up. i will not forget or move onto other things. America must evolve. And i will be alert, awake and watching, trying in every way to call out racist violence of the mind, the mouth, or the action every time i see it. i will be working to create safety for you and yours. i know i’m not alone in this feeling and i know it does not change your day to day to hear this – but i do hope we can change this reality sooner rather than later. All our children must be protected. i believe we are all one, and i will act accordingly.
I appreciate your post here. Also
I just wanted to interject that Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary’s book “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” is an excellent start to help some get a better grip and understanding as to why what goes on in the African American community and what people of color experience on a daily basis, it’s a great help to work toward healing as a nation.
Check out her website too.
Thank you for writing this, it is the incredible raw ugly truth that needs to be articulated and understood by the masses. Your personal experience and facts are profound. As a Christian African American woman, Your last statement about wondering whether black people would have to carry this burden until the return of Christ really resonated with me. Idk, the thought of that is daunting. This may not be the most comforting statement but its nonetheless true, our time on earth is but a vapor/blip in the larger frame of eternity. We must continue to remain anchored in hope, our ability to preserve is dependent on it.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV)
Excellent post. Much agreed. Loved Alexander’s book. Another good read is The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone….
Reblogged this on reblogz's Blog.
I simply love how you have worded this so eloquently. I pray that God continues to strengthen you and increase your reach in the area that you area in. Be blessed!
Sean, i hope you take the time to read this with a fair and Christ like heart. if you do, please tell me if this concerns you as a Christian concerned with justice and honesty; and if this concerns you as a black American.
Edward, As a Christian who’s white I care about justice – including the details of the trial – but also cannot forget my African American brothers’ responses over a year ago. Regardless of whether The Narrative actually happened as originally assumed, I was struck not by my black brothers discussing their experiences, but who was talking. The men who I know well – Godly, wise, accomplished, great temperaments – the men you’d want to start a church (or a Mars colony or just about anything else) who have carried themselves with compassion and true maturity – THEY WERE THE ONES who brought their ‘stopped for no reason at all’ stories forward.
My uninvited guess is that such model citizens most deeply felt the injustice that they’d experienced themselves – and maybe more deeply because of the rank unfairness of them as society’s best guys having been nailed.
In an odd sense, the pain actually may not be directly related to either Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman, but about everybody else, and how their own experiences have been brought before them again. It’s almost as though the facts were really dealing with aren’t from Sanford – the ones to which so many of our Brothers in Christ are reacting are the facts they’ve lived themselves.
Are people hurting for a victim in Florida? Sure – and no matter what happened that night there’s a life gone, so even if a precise form of justice is served by the court, there’s a life to mourn. (And two families whose lives can’t be the same again.)
But it’s also about all those other encounters that decent, law-abiding Americans have had to watch for all these years.
And it’s about the fact that our Brothers and Sisters in Christ are in pain. Nobody can reason another person our of their pain – and it’s really about the pain.
I hope that before God I’m not causing any more.
Thanks for reading.
May God have mercy on us all.
I for one caused a Man to die. Even though it happened 2,000 years ago and He’s forgiven me, I can’t forget that.
here is the problem though, Steve. this case wad never about racism or stereotyping. Zimmerman did not pick out Martin because of his skin color. but we’ve railroaded.Zimmerman into this role and over reacted as if it were the truth. no one is standing up for the truth. not one person. and as a Christian, reading this blog and the comments, i find it deeply troubling.
I agree partially. Zimmerman was racked over the coals as though he was a racist looking for a some black kid.
I don’t believe that to be true. But Zimmerman did, in my opinion, first decide to go after Trayvon because of his ethnicity.
If it was a white or Asian teenager walking in the rain back home, I truly believe we would not be having this conversation and he would still be with his family today.
I read over your post again and think i understand whatt you’re, please correct me if I’m wrong.
you assert that even though the media rolled out a parade of lies that served to make one man into a racist monster, it’s ok because we shouldn’t be concerned with that man’s right for justice. the only thing that matters is people are hurting. that hurt is in response to irresponsible media and leaders.
it doesn’t matter if our society made broad assumptions about the character of a man. all that matters is the fact that injustice exists in out society, but dint worry about the injustice of judging the charger of a man, on a national scale.
so we sacrifice one mans justice and the truth because people are hurting.
Is thus correct? Because i believe the truth and the treatment of everyone is a big deal. I’m not trying to discount or lessen Sean’s experiences. But i think the truth trumps the pain.
After all, we essentially cast a man into a public prison based on heresy and lies. this should trouble everyone.
so why isn’t it?
fearless, there is no good evidence to suggest Zimmerman targeted him based on race. when the dispatcher asked if he was white, black, hispanic , he said “he looks black.” We dint know if Zimmerman would have been suspicious of ANY unfamiliar teenager in his neighborhood hanging around in the rain. when you say you dint think Zimmerman would have been suspicious of anyone, you assume to know the measure of his character. We need to stop assuming race and racism is involved in tragedies like this.
if we see racism in every dark shadow, in every corner, we will never, ever, as a nation or a church allow for true forgiveness.
Racism still exists. injustice is still part of life. But why must we assume racism? especially when noJ evidence suggests it?
I hear you, Ed. You’re right. I am making an assumption, but it is one that I stand by. His initial observation wasn’t about race–as best we can tell since that’s what Zimmerman says.
As strongly as you believe that race wasn’t a factor, the black experience in America has always had race included as a factor whether we wanted to or not.
From his car in the rain, who knows. Lets not get technical, but based on clothing and steps, I can spot a black kid a mile away. We walk different, dress different. Could he tell on foot? In conversation, confrontation? Only two people were. One didn’t testify and one can’t.
I applaud your courage for entering into this dialogue with patience. It truly means a lot. Again, you could be right. This situation may have played out the exact same way and rather than a black teenager killed, it could have been a white kid, Asian or Latino.
History and our experience just says different. There are several cases “where race wasn’t a factor” that resulted in the death of a black person more often than not. We are consistently told race isn’t a factor, but if you add up cross-cultural confrontation fatalities, its quite disproportionate.
We want to believe race isn’t a factor today, but it is. Majority culture would say it isn’t a factor. Minority cultures say it is. Did you watch the video link I sent you?
my email is fake. i prefer anonymity. my wife told me not to broach thus subject, she’s afraid people will think I’m racist. and honestly, i do fear that as well. I understand that minorities, especially black Americans, get treated differently. and i understand that white people have a tendancy to fear or be suspicious of black people who dress a specific way. But what has so deeply troubled me is that almost the exact moment after this shooting, a narrative was constructed to get the nation angry, to judge a man without all the facts.
this has made me wonder just what the heck is going on in our culture and in our churches. i dint think Christians should be do quick to judge. i dint think we should make assumptions about a persons character. I believe in giving people the benefit of doubt. we dint know what’s in Zimmermans heart, we dint know what was in Martins heart. This is a tragedy that spiraled out of control thanks to the media and our leaders.
Again, i dint want to lessen or mean to ignore your experiences. I just find a great deal about this case very troubling. and i think as Christians trying to be Christ like and loving we need to start a new national discourse on race and the way it is used to constantly drive Wedge between us.
Well, while I hate to hear that on the email front (I sent a couple of links), I do understand. Please tell your wife, as the author of this blog, I don’t think you’re racist, at all.
As I said in the email, your tone, responses and overall demeanor tells me and I believe those around you that you have an opinion but are also listening.
That’s huge and the key to all of this. I don’t know if both sides of this issue will ever come to a complete agreement, but for now I wish they would do what we are trying to do: listen to each other.
Sean, Thank you for engaging with me, I’ve been trying to get done kind of discussion started and no one has taken me seriously. I really do appreciate it. I hope you still think I’m not a racist after reading what I’m about to say.
A few years ago I got married and moved into a decent sized city in the midwest. my job paid little so i took an apartment in an area that was slowing seeing more and more crime. most of it was drug related. there were lots of burglaries and muggings. not far from our apartment a man was shot dead because he had no cash for the muggers. I also discovered that the cemetery we lived next to was a hang out for heroin users. Most of the people who hung around there were black. most of the shootings and muggings and robberies were committed by young black men.
During the day i sometimes ran into these young men asking for money and some just wanting to talk. I had lost my job and had little money, but i would talk with them some.
But one night i was walking to the store alone and i heard a man calling to me from the direction of the cemetery. It scared me. I hurried to the store, the man calling me still, and once inside called my wife and asked her to come get me in the car.
i dint know if the man was black or white or hispanic. but because it war night and they were in the direction of the cemetery i assumed they were a heron addict who was looking to rob me. I didn’t think that made me racist, but with all that’s been said about Zimmerman i wonder if people would sayi am. i wonder had me and that man collided and i feared for my life and killed him, what people would say about me. it troubles me.
That doesn’t make you racist. I think that makes you honest, realistic and protective of not just your life, but your wife’s as well. My parents divorced after my dad’s affair and because of bad financial choices, my mom and I moved from the suburbs to the hood literally overnight. I have seen and experienced similar circumstances. You were wise not to go into the park. I wouldn’t have gone either. You were witness to a gang and drug-infested environment, primarily of one ethnic group, in this case, black people. That’s just a fact. Hate it, but its true.
Here’s the difference in how I see your perspective. What would have made your case more like Zimmerman’s wouldn’t be going into the park to help, confrontation and taking a life. It would be more like:
Neighborhood is drug invested and you’re sick of it. You’ve called the police who either haven’t arrived or consistently have come late (which is normal when you live in the hood; I have stories from growing up in 3rd Ward in Houston).
You buy a gun to defend yourself and the neighborhood. On this evening, you hear sounds/calls coming from the park for help, call the police to report what you hear and have previously experienced. They say, “Wait and we will send someone.” You see a someone walking away and decide to pursue–which the police dispatcher said not to. Kid may or may not look familiar and is uncomfortable being followed as you’re a grown man, and he’s a teenager–and no one likes being followed for any reason.
Confrontation ensues, kid dies and you discover he didn’t sell drugs at all. He was headed home from school and the park is a short cut.
I reaffirm I don’t think you’re racist. Some rough cross-cultural experiences? Yes. Not as naive as the rest of the country? Yes. Sounds like you showed wise judgment, regardless of culture.
My concern with Zimmerman–which probably will never be resolved–is in the details:
– what prompted him to follow Martin even when the police said not to?
– at what point did he recognize Martin’s ethnicity? Were there no street lights? I don’t prejudge but I work with college students. Give 10-15 seconds, dress, pace of walk, or even a closer proximity (as I am near-sighted) and I can identify someone’s ethnicity.
– did he identify himself as he was following Martin? How long did he follow him? Did Martin just turn around and attack him? Why? Did Martin fear for his life because a man over 100 heavier was following him without explanation?
– what gave Zimmerman the concern that the person he was following was worth following to begin with? (The neighbor who testified said black teens had been breaking into their neighborhood.)
– if he saw it was a person of a different ethnicity, would be have continued to follow?
– since he was armed and it was the suburbs, and would have been justified in protecting himself and it was raining, why not give the kid a ride rather than call the police and follow him?
No one has said from any media outlet that I have seen that Trayvon did nothing wrong. No one. I have heard his was prone to violence, had weed in his system, attacked Zimmerman. No one has stood up for him and consistently said the kid was going home with skittles and tea. No one has said an innocent kid has dies because Zimmerman thought he was a suspect. That concerns me.
Trayvon didn’t do anything wrong. After standing his own ground for being followed and killed, he’s then put on trial as being practically a menace and even if he wasn’t guilty that day, he wasn’t entirely innocent and therefore Zimmerman’s self-defense was acceptable.
I don’t see that being true if any other minority is follows or attacked in this country.
The city-sickness you say troubles me.
So does lack of value associated with Martin’s life. That troubles me greatly. Because like I said, he’s me.
Sean, it seems there are two stories being told here.
The police never ordered or told Zimmerman nit to follow Martin. A non emergency dispatcher said, and i quote from the audio, “we don’t need you to do that.” to which he replied, “ok.”
There was never a police order, not even a suggestion.
I’m on a phone and can’t remember all the concerns. but i think we need to remember that Zimmerman is hispanic with afro-peruivuan heritage, he grew up in a racially mixed household. The news media invented a racial class for him, “white hispanic.” why did they do that?
as for no one standing up fur Martin, i have to disagree. I’ve only heard that he did nothing wrong. and I’ve heard from various comments on sites that Martin had every right to beat up Zimmerman. I’m not sure what news outlet or group you’re havingg around, but I’ve only heard how Zimmerman is at fault for the death.
i stand by the fact that no one had stood up and asked, why did the media act the way it did? should we be concerned?
I am on CNN, ABC and Fox.
Real quick: even the dispatcher speaks to cultural differences. I as a Black man, at least today, cannot use that as an excuse. I have heard that a couple of times throughout this case. If the roles were reversed, given the number of police incidents with blacks in this country, there’s no way I would be allowed to state there is a difference between a dispatcher and a police officer. My experience and the experience of educated peers and family is completely different.
I will be the first to admit I am paying more attention to what is being said about Martin than Zimmerman, so I will go back and recheck. But I do believe of the roles and cultures were reversed, this would be a radically different conversation…even if there was one at all.
Here’s the email I sent you talking about the cultural differences.
First off, thanks for responding and even the tone in your response. Truly, just thanks for your peace. It’s felt in your words.
I agree with the his points completely, not his conclusion. Remember, how I said I studied culture in college? I started paying attention to how Zimmerman was “classified” from day 1. It’s sad.
He started out white, was arrested and taken to court as bi-racial and acquitted Hispanic. The same thing happened with Barak Obama. He started out bi-racial as a senator, and candidate, but the moment he received the nomination, he was Black.
We don’t talk enough about culture and diversity and different perspectives enough. Our information is old, outdated and ignorant of the attitudes of today.
With that being said, I don’t know if you caught the CNN article from one of the juror’s. her perspective was George had good intentions–which I mostly agree with. I don’t think he’s racist was out to kill a black kid. I hate media tried to vilify him in that manner. However, I completely disagree with the idea that if it were a white or Asian kid dressed the same way, he would have responded in a similar light. Here’s a great article from white dad on racial profiling (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/lament-from-a-white-fathe_b_3600320.html )and a video from ABC news demonstrating we have preconceived notions when it comes to race ( http://www.upworthy.com/know-anyone-that-thinks-racial-profiling-is-exaggerated-watch-this-and-tell-me-when-your-jaw-drops-2 )
So I agree with part of the article. George Zimmerman was led out to the slaughter before all the facts were in. Sex, politics and race are really the only things the media focus on. It was done on purpose to gain attention, but it doesn’t dismiss the fact that this case started because of how we view each other cross-culturally in this country. Some of us have learned not to. Many still have a way to go.
I wish we didn’t but we do.
Please forgive typos as I am on my iPad.
i can’t watch that video. unfortunately i have a data plan and no internet at home. i only get local news coverage and also cbs and zbc and nbc. to the point about the dispatcher, they also were asking Zimmerman what Martin was doing. it’s entirely possible Zimmerman thought he was doing what he was asked. after he was told he didn’t need to follow him, he said ok. we have absolutely no way of knowing if he stopped or kept going.
I guess the overall question is: should we give someone the benefit of the doubt?
I’m willing to say it’s possible Zimmerman kept following Martin and maybe confronted him. out of thus a fight occurred.
but I’m also willing to say, based on what i know from the evidence, it’s possible Zimmerman stopped following and was attacked by an angry teen with a chip on his shoulder.
I’m willing to give both men the t reasonable doubt i believe they deserve. i know neither mans heart and won’t presume to do so.
i think this tragedy truly it’s a tragedy. in literature a tragedy is when all the players die. Zimmerman killed Trayvon, i believe, out of legitimate fear for his life. thus doesn’t lessen that loss if life. and the media and public opinion, which i believe is based on presumption and prejudice, killed Zimmerman.
you spoke to the fact we dint talk about cultures enough. e dint explore all the facets of racism. i think this case should have spurred those conversations. I’m really hoping it will.
i think there’s a bigger dialogue in all this sadness and i think the church needs to start it.
p.s. i would never hold typos against anyone. i know hire hard it is to type on these touchscreens. my Droid really hates to spell what i tap.
Thanks for all you’re input Sean. I’m glad to have a brother in Christ who is willing to engage in difficult conversations withiut judgment.
Sean, i was reading your comments again and refused you were saying no one consistently stood up to say Martin was entireky innocent. I think that’s because he did physically assault Zimmerman. O hope this doesn’t detract from the conversation we were having, but is Martin’s physical assault of Zimmerman in question here?
Appreciate your dialogue and discussion with me Edward.
The president’s speech today summed up what I wanted to communicate both in my blog entry and in replies to the various comments.
May God continue to guide us all on this journey of not just a more perfect union, but increasingly following Jesus and loving each other thereby bringing the Kingdom of God another step closer to the earth.
All the best,
Great insight. I can relate in so many ways. I have a son who is only 3 years younger than Trayvon was.
This was beautifully crafted and is a real testament to your wisdom and kindness. As the white mother of a black son, these are issues that simply break my heart. I want the world to see the same strong, smart and hilarious kid that I see–not a threatening presence approaching on the sidewalk.
This is a great post Sean. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you young man for sharing your heart, I will pray for you. I too am a christian and have been through many of life’s difficulties so I get where you are coming from. I started school at the time when school’s were integrated and desegregated, only I ended up going to an all black school. My brother and I were the only white people there and whether I wanted to or not I had to fight every day, called racial slurs everyday and I never had an easy day in the many years that I was there. I made friends there and they were beat up from time to time because they were friendly to me. I can only speak from my experience, but it seems that we have to stop teaching our kids to hate, and begin to teach them to love. If you go to any playground in the world where there are more than one race you will see that all the kids are playing together and having a wonderful time. Why do we have to teach them to hate one another? I did not become racist nor did I learn to hate anyone (it would have been very easy and who could blame me), I choose not too, I wanted to be better than those persecuting me. We are all special and I say all this to say; it was a tragedy about Travon for sure, a terrible and sad thing and for George also as you have said, but they are the latest victims of unequality in this country in dealing with such matters. My son taught me something when he was very young, he began to mimic everything I did one day sitting on the couch. I folded my arms, he folded his, crossed my legs, he crossed his, it was a cute game but it hit me like a ton of bricks. My son was watching me and everything I did, so for him to be the man I wanted him to be, I had to become that man, and that included loving my brothers of all races and respecting all peoples for their beliefs whether they were mine or someone else’s. Everyone has to be held accountable for their own actions, perhaps George would have given Travon a ride home that night had he not called him a creepy ass cracker or any other racial slur. The actual truth of what happened is lost to us all, as i said it is a tragedy all the way around and no winners, for all have lost. But we all need to be responsible for our actions, we can no longer blame others for the things we do and say, no excuse is good enough. Thank you for listening, I too have spent lots of time with youth, of all races, and I honor you for that, good luck and God bless.
There is wisdom in what you say Scott. In some parts of this country, change has already been going on for a long time. Let us pray that it spreads.
Thanks Scott for your comments. Brothers in Christ is who we all are, and we must continue open and honest dialogue in mentoring young men in this world. Constant Prayer and Intentional Education is the key components of a better society.
Thank you for this vulnerable, thoughtful, and honest post. As a White man, I hear your pain, and mourn for the injustice of our culture that cheapens a young Black male life in direct opposition to God’s declaration that all are made in his image. The reaction to the Zimmerman verdict isn’t about one case…it’s just another in a series of messages sent to and by our culture for the last 250 years. I have found profound insight into God’s perspective from Habakkuk 1:2-4, and 2:2-20. Thank you for speaking truth with grace. May The Lord vindicate those unjustly persecuted sooner rather than later.
I have read this post so many times…. thank you for sharing your reflection and your heart. I came across this on facebook and, I hope you don’t mind that I shared it on my page, as well. I am a Christian, too, and I see Christ in your words and the way you speak. If you don’t mind me speaking frankly, as a white woman, I have not walked through some of the things you have walked through, but I want to understand as best I can. I also yearn to help others understand, too. How can we truly “see” the world as Jesus sees it if we can’t step outside of ourselves and see it through the eyes of another of his beloved children? This post has touched me so deeply that, as I said, I read it again and again. It is a gift that I can share with others, too. Thank you, Sean.
As a follower of Christ, as a white man, as a law enforcement officer. I love and appriciate your thoughts. Your heart comes through in your article. You said it like I thought it, but didn’t know it. You are a good man. Keep the words coming. I will keep reading. But what can be done about the vicous cycle of young blacks being born into fatherless homes?
I have to be honest. Reading this was not easy. I understand where you’re coming from, however there are some points that really bothered me. Nonetheless, you seem to be reaching the mass and thats appreciated. I have 2 African American sons and now I only see Trayvon when I look at them. I feel helpless in so many ways. I have experienced racism at its worst form in GA, however it never made me treat my friends of other races any different. The blame of ignorance lies within the person that chooses to behave in such a manor. I’ll share this with my friends and we’ll have deep discussion about your thoughts and the reactions of others. I’ll keep you updated. Take care and continue to write….its healing for many people.
Thank you for your insight and the challenge that you have presented to folks that they think about how me might move forward in Black/White relationships.
I grew up in the 50’s /60’s when there was even more prejudice than now… But not just prejudices against blacks(referred to as negroes when I was a kid)—But serious prejudices against those that were from different background and heritage…Italian(as myself), Polish, Jewish, West Virginian, etc…
Living in a predominately white neighborhood (95% White) I had the unusual opportunity to be Bussed 45 minutes to the Inner City for GradeSchool to a Catholic/Christian School where the student population was 50/50 black/white.
I grew up being ‘color blind’ to my friends that were black. I didn’t see color.
But I learned the mean intent of those that used the ‘N’ word to my friends…In the same way I learned the meanness of when I was called a ‘wop’ …as an Italian.
Like yourself, I am product of my environment.
I came from a low/middle income America Catholic family with parents and grandparents that were loving, strongly religious, stable and open minded.
I learned that Black prejudice existed in Ohio…but not so much as the degree of Black prejudices that existed in southern states.
Working in most States East of the Mississippi and South into Florida, I was appalled to see that people’s ignorance and fear seemed to keep them from inviting any type of healthy Black/White relationship. Very sad.
But now… being a bit older, and I hope, a lot wiser, I have come to see that much of the disparity between Blacks and Whites is driven today by the Black Community leaders that seem to want to encourage and propagate the ‘differences’ instead of embracing the ‘sameness’… if that makes sense(?)
My GrandDad came to America on his own as a 13 year old Italian Immigrant in the late 1800’s…After suffering lots of degrading prejudices because of the way he talked(broken English that even I had trouble understanding), his looks(dark complexion from Sicily), poorly educated(couldn’t read or write), ‘poor’ by most standards… He was a proud American. He even claimed his birthday was July 4th even though he didn’t have a birth certificate.
It took 3 generations for him to assimilate his family, children into his new American Culture.
He would smack me if I tired to speak Italian…saying “speak American!”.
He got it!… To become accepted, one needed to become part of the American Culture…while still being proud of your heritage.
I now see that the Select ‘Black’ High School in Columbus, Ohio; Ebonic’s Language Curriculum; The Miss Black America Contest; — – The highly publicized racial commentaries by Black Leaders (Rev. Jessy Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton…even President Obama from time to time) which seem to be politically driven to place efforts to drive wedges between Blacks and Whites.
To me all of these efforts do much to Self-Segregate the Black members from the community and culture at large….the very same community that want these prejudices to be diminished. This makes no sense to me.
I think that this continues to propagate the kind of prejudices that you yourself have
I am disappointed when the Media have given our National Black leaders the opportunity to bring POSITIVE open dialog to Americans…but instead these high profile leaders only seem to fall back on their own prejudices against Whites. It saddens me—What a wasted opportunity to bring people of different color together.
I see this as wasted opportunities to bring people to dialog and positive reflection. (President Obama, I think attempted a bit of this when he called for the White House ‘beer’ gathering with the Policeman, University Professor, himself and V.P. Biden—but only after He, himself was quick to judge with his comments in the Media within days of the initial publicity against the Entire Police Dept)
I am an active participant at my church in adult faith guidance, where we have open discussion with social justice and minority/Black-White issues.
I also volunteer in a socio-economically mixed YMCA that has a balanced mix of White, Black, Hispanic, Samali and Asian members.
I have an a native African/French Son-In-Law that my daughter married.
At the YMCA where I volunteer I believe we have a microcosm that affords the opportunity to embrace and encourage development of Christian/Judeo beliefs of developing Healthy Mind/Body/Spirit.–to embrace and respect one-another for whom they are…Not an easy task, but it happens with good, healthy leadership
I read with interest that your background in your spiritual guidance is very strongly in the Afro-American Studies and Support of Black College Students.
I hope and pray that you are encouraging open mindedness with those that you ‘pastor’.
I truly believe that we are here for each other…that when we pass on will be judged not by our color but how we treated on-another.
Bless you in your endeavors.
Sean – Thanks for putting into words what many educated Black men have been wrestling with this week. I will share this with other brothers in my faith circle. I, too, work at an educational institution and mentor young underrepresented males on campus mainly African-American and Hispanic/Latino. Only God knows the answers, but rest assured through His grace and mercy we will gain some understanding from the case. I am also the father of 3 black males, and the conversations have been interesting. My wife and I raise our kids to love God and His word. Now, more than ever, we focus their attention to understanding God’s word and keep Him at the center of their lives. Hopefully, there will be more faith-based, educated conversations around race in America in the coming weeks and months. I will do my part in my household and on my campus. Thanks again, my brother in Christ!
Sean- funny how social media works. Saw your blog through someone sharing on Facebook. Very thoughtful, piece. Hope you are well. Best to you!
Thank you for a moving and thought-provoking post.
and a very civil and gentle conversation with your commenters!
I appreciate you taking the time to consider the issue, internalize it, and to express it to us in such a thoughtful way. My only critique is that the title of this article wasn’t “Reflections on Being a Man in America”. This law, as do many other very unjust laws currently on the books, impacts all races. With less than 5 minutes of research you could have found other cases, which fall under the same laws and involve other races as the victims. You would have also found that these did NOT make national news.
Sadly your analysis, while heartfelt and genuine, stops at the door of race. With that door opened, one can see that this extends far beyond race into the realm of human rights across all races, creeds, and associations. Any one of us could have been in the shoes of either party, and history has shown similar outcomes for related cases. So indeed it is a very scary thought that it’s possible for someone to pick a fight with anyone for any reason and the law protects them for taking that to the next…and very unfortunate…level.
As Americans…and even further, as free (we are NOT free, but we should be fighting to preserve what freedoms we have left) human beings, the discussion and focus of the outrage should be on laws that protect actors of aggression. This would include those laws that allow anyone to take what belongs to another in all aspects and especially those that allow anyone to take another’s life (yes, this especially applies to governments both domestic and abroad, at peace or at war, which take and kill far more people than any individual ever could).
We’re all in this fish bowl together my friend, and just like you, we are being unlawfully searched, detained, murdered, persecuted, spied on, and impoverished. Please look past the closed door of race…only then will you discover that there are many more people feeling your same turmoil, your same resentment, and your same fear that nothing in our lives is safe…not even our lives.
Thanks for taking the time to read, reflect and respond to my blog. I felt your heart and compassion in your response. Moreover, as I have said to several people, the most crucial elements in these conversations is peace and an open-mind. Again, I thank you.
With that being, respectfully, I disagree with two of your points.
1. The title of the article, “Reflections on Being a Black Man in America,” are my reflections on being a Black man in this country. They weren’t designed to be the communicate the definitive Black experience, but mine. That I wrote as a Christian, a minister and as a Black man are my lived experiences so I do believe title is accurate. Other cultures may be able to identify partially or greatly with what I am saying, but that won’t negate the tangible ways other Blacks feel what I am saying.
2. The door of race is not closed, not by a long shot.
The country’s polarized responses to this case, the majority opinion that race wasn’t a factor coupled with the minority opinion that race was a primary factor, countless conversations, interviews, much, dare I say all evidence points to race not being a closed door. I do agree with you in the sense that are numerous cases of Americans–regardless of ethnicity, geography or socio-economic status–that experience crime (in all facets) on a daily basis. History does show that, but history shows a greater disproportionate proclivity with Blacks having higher arrest rates, prison sentences, police killings, etc. (I don’t want to ignore the fact that most crimes affecting Blacks are committed by Blacks themselves…a culture cancer that must be stopped). Again, read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander or Being a Black Man in America by the Washington Post or Disentegration by Eugene Robinson. Crime, murder, racial attacks (whether they are truly racially motivated or appear to be before accurate investigations) do indeed occur, but all reports show they affect a minority that’s only 11% of the population (not most) a lot more: African-Americans. Our South Asian brothers and sisters are “randomly chosen” for searches if they don’t have American names when they fly. They were stared at immensely right after 9/11. The US was shocked and in outrage that it’s citizens were treated that way. The Black Community had one response: it will be ok. It happens to us daily.
I agree with your points, but I disagree with your conclusion, for the same reasons I wrote about.
I am Black. I grew up around Black people for most of my life. When I entered into college, a 50,000+ student campus where the Black population was less that 3%, I learned a great deal about crossing cultures in every way possible including, organizations, classes, friendships, roommates, you name it. While in college, I majored in African-American Studies–which means for professional and personal reasons, I follow cases and statistics where race is or is considered to be a factor. Today, I work for a Christian non-profit with thousands of employees and only 40 Black staff. My job is to tell be a bridge-builder between my culture and others.
My blog entry wasn’t in regard to “Stand Your Ground,” which Zimmerman’s legal team didn’t use. If it was in response to that law, I would be in 310% agreement with you..yes 310%. You’re spot on. “Stand Your Ground” doesn’t respect color or culture. It’s dangerous to all.
We are human and we can all be “searched, detained, murdered, persecuted, spied on an impoverished” just as you say. If we count the articles, the books, the studies, I assure you…and it breaks my heart…there is a big disparity.
Thanks Sean. I’ve been able to share this with others and help speak with them about the point of perspective of looking to help (give a ride) rather than assume the worst. There needs to be a transformation of fearful hearts and minds with the power of Christ (Rom. 12:2-3) so that we love people & see them through His eyes rather than fear them. Keep up the good work with IV.
Great blog entry Sean….well written and points well-made for us to consider.
Hey Sean. I just read your blog after a mutual friend mentioned it. I’m saddened for you and for us all. This may be a big part of the cross the Lord calls you to – and black men generally in America – to bear with Him until he comes. My prayer is that you will never have to bear it mostly alone. God help the rest of us to do our part. Your brother and fellow solder on a different front, Fred
Sean, I’m very sorry for the racism you experience, but there are facts to this case that I believe you are not aware of, and which I believe will dramatically change your perspective if you allow yourself to become aware of them. Please watch this: http://youtu.be/Ebu6Yvzs4Ls . If this case has affected you even one tenth as much as you describe, then watching this and getting facts that were drowned out (by the infotainment we call “news”) will most certainly change your life.
While I appreciate your posts and do believe the country is getting better with respect to race relations, respectfully, I disagree with you.
My concerns were not about the facts of the case, but what led to this being a case to begin with. Martin should never have been stopped, followed or approached.
That is my concern, frustration and experience. Please see the President’s response for clarification.
It’s the perspective and consistent coincidences that make this painful.
Facts don’t change experience or perspective.
I’m moved by your commentary, personal experience, and the burden you carry as a result of everything related to this debacle. I don’t ever want to make the mistake of saying, “I understand what you’re going through”, as I am a white male. I do however want to respond to this incident in a way that honors you and your culture all in the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I am also a campus minister in a predominantly white university and I want to know how would you want young white Christians to not only understand this situation from the lens of your community, but to act appropriately in a way that is helpful and marked by wisdom and love?
Your brother in Christ,
Maybe you’ve moved on, but I’m still thinking about implications of the Trayvon Martin case. A news report on a TV in the gym this morning had some video of a shackled O.J. Simpson in a court room. I don’t know what the subject of that report was, but it reminded of his case that inflamed racial tensions and ended with many Whites craving for justice and many Blacks tacitly satisfied that “they finally got their comeuppance for what they did to Emmitt”. Then this afternoon as I was walking back to my office from lunch, I momentarily tensed up as a squad car driving towards me slowed down only to reveal the officer concentrating on some screen on his dashboard. I thought back to that night in high school when two policemen helped my brother and me with our car only after they had frisked and searched us.
Anyway, even though it pains me that he politicizes and champions abortion, I appreciated the President’s reflections on the Trayvon Martin case. It was one of the few times outside of clips of him playing basketball where it seemed like he was “one of us” (black men). The author of this article states it well: http://www.salon.com/2013/07/22/tavis_smiley_doesnt_understand_president_obama/.
Here, Thabiti Anyabwile argues against the using aggregate national crime statistics to make generalizations on race: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2013/07/24/why-statistics-dont-justify-our-prejudice-or-our-profiling/
Post-racial? More like post-Christian. From the perspective of Blacks, our society has never been Christian.
Peace be with you, brother.
Haven’t moved on at all.
I had lunch with a staff from Huston Tillotson last week. As I was leaving campus, it was raining and I saw a black male college student walking to the bus stop. I froze in my car.
I freeze every time I see someone wearing a hoodie. I am having conversations with staff from both sides of the “argument.”
I agree with you completely. Not post-racial. Definitely post-Christian.
I owe you lunch, too.
I ask this honestly….Why does it have to be about race? Why do some have to inject race into every issue? As a Christian, Do you define yourself as black first? I’ve know many African Americans that put there “blackness” before Jesus Christ. Why?
Thanks for asking. Really, thanks. I think sometimes we can all jump into the deep with listening to each other.
I will be very honest. I am a Christian first and I have worked and still am working to have a Christian response be my first one–like every other arena of life.
Race and ethnicity come up often because sadly there is a tragic history of race in the country. It was a remains a critical tool used to categorize people.
As you can see in the blog post, I mentioned and very much am trying to remain Christian in my thinking and views toward the case.
Cultural diversity exists in our country and the world. I think we confuse that at times with diversity. Diversity has everyone at the table. Cultural diversity is everyone at the table sharing and experiencing and enjoying different cultures (tasting the food).
I think many people struggle with being Christian first, and culture second, for a number of reasons:
– people see what we are (first), rarely who we are (Christian) first
– in the US (I want to stress that), there’s a history of mistreatment based on race far more than Jesus (but disdain towards Jesus and Christianity is growing here)
– Sunday is still the most segregated day of the week
– Blacks, along with other minorities, are in cross-cultural situations far more frequently and it is difficult being consistently misunderstood or having to translate everything (I can explain a little more if needed)
So I would say, we both know many Black people who are black first and Christian second. I know many people who are white first, Asian first, etc. I think it manifests itself in different ways.
Finally, to address your overall concern (and I will speak for Sean, not the entire Black population…as I am sure someone will disagree), I think we are all working/praying/practicing a Christian worldview and work to be reconciled to each other and to Jesus. What makes that difficult is…well, race and ethnicity. For each person out there who loves and respects culture (not color-blind or “post-racial” as the first is damaging and the latter dismissive), there are 10 who don’t. Because of history, prejudice (aware or unaware) and because we view the world through our own culture without realizing it at time, race plays a factor. We create, define and evaluate the world through culture. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes, it’s painful.
Is it really a race issue every time a Black person plays “the race card”? I don’t think so. Sometimes right is right and wring is wrong. Sometimes, when sin is encountered in the world, one striking conclusion arrives: all things being equal, the remaining conclusion is the only difference in a situation is race. If the ethnicities were different or switched, would we be here? When those conclusions lead to different answers, it reminds minorities of great pain we cannot escape.
For African-Americans, our entire presence in this country is solely because of race. While things aren’t as bad as they used to be, we still judge people by skin color, not character content. We still say skin color equals character. That’s what media shifted the entire case towards it (I have my thoughts on Zimmerman but that’s another reply).
Being a Christian doesn’t get me out of some tough situations. My ethnicity, however, depending on where I am, if it was different it could open many more doors than my present one.
That hurts. Still. And that’s largely why race is typically always apart of the conversation. It can’t be left at the door.
I understand this case has been difficult for you. I am grateful that you identify as a Christian first and foremost. I am going to ask some questions that may make you uncomfortable but I think they need to be considered.
There were many false reports that George followed Trayvon because of the color of his skin. If that were true, it would be very, very upsetting. But we now know the actions of that night were not driven by race. Zimmerman is not a racist. At the time of the attack, George was actively mentoring young, Black people. The FBI cleared him of any racial motivation. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2012/0712/FBI-report-No-evidence-George-Zimmerman-is-racist
So I wonder why you wrote this: “This court case has reaffirmed that I cannot go alone into environments where I am the only Black person, especially at night.”
Your statement seems to belie your nickname of Fearless. You are not Trayvon. Trayvon acted suspiciously, it was not just the color of his skin or the clothes he wore. The fact George Zimmerman followed him had absolutely nothing to do with race. And I do not think you would physically attack someone you thought was following you. When someone is following you, you have choices to make: you can run home to safety, call 911, stand your ground and confront the person verbally, attack physically. Trayvon chose poorly.
Have you considered what it is like to be falsely accused of racism? NBC News falsely edited the 911 tape to make George look like a racist. Eventually they fired the producer responsible, but many people still don’t know. http://wapo.st/12rGwC6
An ABC News reporter tweeted that George shot Trayvon because he was Black. Again, not true. http://bit.ly/15sCyMM
CNN falsely reported that George used a curse word and called Trayvon a “coon.” Again, not true. George said it was “cold.” http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tim-graham/2012/04/06/cnn-walks-it-back-oops-zimmerman-didnt-say-coon-he-said-it-was-cold
Now, imagine for a minute that you are attacked and have to defend yourself with deadly force. You consider it absolutely tragic that you had to take a life (just as George felt it was tragic). You suffer survivor’s guilt. But instead of being left alone to seek peace with God, you are arrested and charged with murder. Media outlets are falsifying evidence and making untrue claims about you. They are saying it was a hate crime and that you were racially motivated. How would you feel?
Do you really think it would be right to put an innocent George Zimmerman behind bars where he would be murdered within weeks?
Thanks for sharing.
“The FBI cleared Zimmerman of any racial motivation.” How is that possible? Unless Professor X (the telepathic leader from X-Men) is on the team. How many times in history, past and present, has someone been “cleared” or racial motivation accurately or otherwise? The FBI was just found to be part of several cover-ups of the 60s, 70s, and some even into the 21st century regarding racially motivated cases.
Fearless in my words and actions. Honestly, that was a cheap shot. Full of fear would have been to not say anything. I don’t live in fear of being profiled. I am profiled. That hasn’t changed. That’s the point of the post and the blog.
How do we know Trayvon acted suspiciously? For the rest of my life, I will always be uncomfortable if someone follows me in a car and follows me on foot. NO ONE knows what transpired that night. Well, three do. God and I do not believe He will be called to the stand. Zimmerman who chose not to take the stand, and Trayvon who can’t.
I am not referring to any of the “false reports” in the media. I ignore them. News is a business, just like everything else. As the son of a criminal attorney, I look to the facts and circumstances leading up to what transpired. I am always amazed that Zimmerman is portrayed as a innocent victim defending himself after he gets into a fight with someone (carrying candy and tea) he was following. If that makes sense in your world, my suggestion is to re-evaluate a number of things.
George and Trayvon both made bad choices that night. In my opinion, Zimmerman made the wrong choice of getting out of his car to follow someone…again, headed home with tea and candy (translation innocent) rather than waiting on the police who are trained to do this. Trayvon Martin made the mistake of thinking he could walk back home at night from the store without consequence.
That’s what circumstances and evidence show.
Now, may I ask you a few questions:
– Why is George Zimmerman portrayed as an innocent neighborhood watch victim?
– Why is Trayvon Martin’s character called into question because he was killed walking home? Why has there been an attempt to both vilify Zimmerman as racist and vilify Martin as the delinquent youth that was “probably” up to no good? Why is race dismissed as a factor in Zimmerman’s actions, but stereotypes of race used to completely label Trayvon and demonstrate Zimmerman’s life was in immediate danger?
– Why was is the conclusion that in “Stand Your Ground” (although not used) Zimmerman is justified to shoot but Trayvon wasn’t even though he was followed and I would argue provoked? (Again, I am not the happiest person in the world when someone follows me or accuses me of misconduct. I am never a good boy and calm enough to alleviate their suspicions. I am outraged and offended and rightly so.)
– Why is there an immediate dismissal of the remote possibility that race was a factor in this case? How do reports suddenly appear that Zimmerman has been an advocate and mentor for Black children? If reports can be exaggerated about his words “coon or cold,” it stands to reason reports can also be exaggerated about him being a “black missionary.” If he was immersed in Black culture that much as a mentor, why didn’t his heart break for this kid walking home in the rain? Why was his instinct to call the police? To follow the kid? To ignore the dispatcher’s warning of not following someone?
– If we look at history, it doesn’t end well when Blacks are followed at night, especially in Florida. I can’t speak for you, but my first thought isn’t to turn around and walk up to the car or person following me to identify myself and calm their fears about me being in their neighborhood. It’s a free country, and I am grown. Trayvon was going home. Home. No evidence says otherwise.
– Why does no one want to admit remotely that Trayvon “could” have been in fear of his life that night?
So respectfully, as I have said over and over again, this was and is an ugly situation. It has revealed that raced is dismissed still as not viable but remains a tragic label on people of color. Trayvon isn’t the only case. There are too many coincidences for this to be a coincidence.
What helps in situations like this is for people to hear the heart of the hurting culture, see the tears in our eyes when our brothers, children and killed because people are in fear for their lives.
What doesn’t help is when people, without hearing our hearts, immediately go on the defensive, dismiss claims of racial intent and proclaim Zimmerman’s complete innocence.
I can’t speak for you, but for me and my friends, the last view days, we’ve thought twice about wearing hoodies. We’ve given rides, cried and become fearful for Black teens wearing hoodies.
It’s been traumatic, again, for us as a people. Life will return to normal for some. This is just a fad.
It isn’t for us. For me.
There is nothing that could have stopped or can stop me from being Trayvon one day.
And people continue to ignore that…while these cases continue to appear.
I am a firm believer in Ephesians 4:15 that we need to “speak the truth in love.” I am attempting to do that to the best of my ability. You seem to think I’m guilty of a cheap shot because I pointed out that fear of white neighborhoods is inconsistent with your nickname. I was not attempting to belittle you. I was attempting to show that your stated fear is unreasonable and contrary to your essence as a person. In Christ, we don’t need to have fear. Perfect love casts out fear. God tells each of “Fear not!” My comment was not a cheap shot but a central truth of what I’m trying to communicate.
There may be lessons I need to learn from the sad tale of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martion. But the lessons must be based on known facts and sworn testimony about that night, not the experiences of people were not there. Perhaps I can learn from your experiences, but your experiences have nothing whatever to do with George and Traayvon. Sound logic prevents any kind of linkage when the facts of two cases are substantially different.
You continue to hold opinions which are contrary to the known facts. You write:
“NO ONE knows what transpired that night. ”
We might not know everything we might like to know but we know a great deal:
1. We know GZ was a neighborhood watch volunteer. Neighborhood watchers are supposed to be suspicious. It is in the job description. Crimes in the neighborhood are the reason neighborhood watch units form.
2. We know George Zimmerman called 911, not Trayvon. That’s not the normal action of someone planning a crime.
3. George said Trayvon was acting suspiciously. Here’s a quote from George on the 911 transcript describing Trayvon’s behavior. “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.” Later George says “he was just staring…. looking at all the houses.” In other words, he was not walking in a straight line going to a destination. He was kind of wandering, meandering, looking to see what he could see. Why would Trayvon be walking around the neighborhood like he’s casing it? Was he planning a burglary? Was he looking for an easy target? Suspicious behavior is a good reason to be suspicious. http://misterbillohno.newsvine.com/_news/2013/07/10/19392176-transcript-of-george-zimmerman-911-call
4. Then George says “Now he’s staring at me” and “Now he’s coming towards me.” Trayvon then ran away but came back after the phone call was over.
5. You can listen to several 911 calls online. The one labeled “Screaming and gunshots audible” has a lot of information. You can hear fighting right outside the house – it went on for some time – then you hear the gunshot. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/what-happened-trayvon-martin-explained
6. A trial had a sworn eyewitness named Jonathan Good who said he saw Trayvon on top of George doing an MMA style “ground and pound.” This testimony is consistent with the injuries George sustained and the tape recording of a prolonged physical altercation. The tape recording and the eyewitnesses are in agreement that the altercation lasted several seconds (long enough to become concerned about the sounds of fighting and screams for help, pull out a phone, dial 911 and hear several seconds of fighting before the gunshot rings out). http://dailycaller.com/2013/06/28/eyewitness-describes-martin-zimmerman-struggle/
7. Other than the gunshot wound, Trayvon suffered no physical injuries in the altercation. In other words, the evidence does not support the idea George started the fight and then pulled a gun when he began to lose. The injuries and other physical evidence is entirely consistent with George’s story that Trayvon attacked him.
If you are followed, you have choices: you can hurry home, call 911, stand your ground and confront the person verbally or attack. Trayvon chose poorly. If Trayvon had survived that night, he would have been charged as an adult for his aggravated assault. You do not need to be afraid because you are not Trayvon. I don’t think you would make the same poor choice Trayvon made.
I understand that you get offended when people are suspicious of you. That would irritate me also. I used to be friends (lost touch with him years ago) with an Hispanic pastor. He suffered the same type of bias. Mothers would grab their kids and pull them close as he walked by. He had a heart of gold and was an outstanding Bible teacher, but people who didn’t know him judged him on the basis of his skin color. He told me it was a little discouraging some days, but that he knew God loved him and accepted him and that was what really mattered.
You write: “I am always amazed that Zimmerman is portrayed as a innocent victim defending himself after he gets into a fight with someone (carrying candy and tea) he was following. If that makes sense in your world, my suggestion is to re-evaluate a number of things.”
Zimmerman is an innocent victim. An honest appraisal of the facts above are conclusive. If the evidence was different, I would be happy to re-evaluate.
You write: ” Why is Trayvon Martin’s character called into question because he was killed walking home? Why has there been an attempt to both vilify Zimmerman as racist and vilify Martin as the delinquent youth that was “probably” up to no good? Why is race dismissed as a factor in Zimmerman’s actions, but stereotypes of race used to completely label Trayvon and demonstrate Zimmerman’s life was in immediate danger?”
This has nothing to do with stereotypes about race, it has everything to do with the evidence. We don’t know exactly how long Trayvon was on top of George bashing his head in, but based on the tape recording it was at least 20 to 30 seconds. How long does it take to beat someone to death? If you have watched much MMA, you will know that the ref will not allow a “ground and pound” to go on for very long. Once the person is no longer able to defend themselves, bad things can happen very quickly. Even though fights are stopped quickly, fighters still sometimes die in the ring. If you understand the concept of self-defense, then you understand why George is innocent of murder.
You write: “Why does no one want to admit remotely that Trayvon “could” have been in fear of his life that night?”
I can’t say for certain what emotions Trayvon may have been feeling, but I can say his actions were illegal. He did not have the legal right to attack George.
You write: “Trayvon isn’t the only case. There are too many coincidences for this to be a coincidence.”
Broad brushes paint ugly pictures. Justice is meted out on a case-by-case basis. Are there cases where people have hunted and kill people just because their skin color was Black? Probably. And other cases where people were killed just because they were White. The murderers should be, and probably were, punished. If you can find cases where they were not punished, then I would be just as upset as you are.
We know George Zimmerman is not a racist. He has family members who are Black. He mentors two Black children. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/03/george-zimmermans-defenders-come-out/50325/ The FBI cleared him of racism. Did you read this article? http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2012/0712/FBI-report-No-evidence-George-Zimmerman-is-racist The FBI’s finding that George is not a racist was very unpopular within the Justice Department. Eric Holder was under a lot of pressure to get George convicted. But the evidence for racism was just not there.
George cried for days after taking Trayvon’s life. It was very upsetting to him. Have you tried to put yourself in George’s place?
Thanks for your response.
First off, let me apologize. It was not my intention to offend. If/since I have, I do apologize for it. I do take the case very personally. If it ever got the point where it was too much for me to handle, I would simply end the dialogue rather than attempt to use words in a vindictive way.
To respond to your post:
1. My fear isn’t of white neighborhoods. My fear is because of my ethnicity, it is assumed I have criminal intent—by some. Perfect love does cast out fear. You are absolutely right. Scripture says, “The kingdom of God has come near,” not here. As believers, as witnesses, agents of reconciliation and simply being salt/light, we are Christ’s ambassadors to this world. That does not change the fact that when I walk into some neighborhoods, I am feared before I have the opportunity to love or open my mouth. We pray and serve to help make Jesus’ words a reality because it isn’t yet. His Kingdom is near, and drawing nearer, but it is not here. If perfect love truly cast out fear, if Zimmerman is mentoring Black kids, why didn’t he offer Martin a ride home that night out of the rain rather than follow, call the police and ultimately enter into a course of actions that would end Trayvon’s life?
Here is a video from ABC News on racial profiling. It shows responses to a white male, a black male and a white female. http://www.upworthy.com/know-anyone-that-thinks-racial-profiling-is-exaggerated-watch-this-and-tell-me-when-your-jaw-drops-2
Because of my ethnicity, I am in certain environments identified as a threat or potential criminal. Police reports and prison statistics all point to this (again, The New Jim Crow) even though it is physically impossible for 11% of a population to be responsible for 50% of the crimes. I wish we were judged by the content of our character, but we are not. My skin color means my life is less valuable in this country.
2. I am ignoring #2 completely. It is both offensive and painful. It proves my point entirely. It assumes Trayvon Martin was intending to commit a crime that night.
Let’s also ignore the evidence that his tools for breaking and entering were skittles, an Arizona Tea and a cell-phone which he was on at the time.
3. Let’s dive into cultural assumptions for a second. I will attempt to decipher how two cultures view one evening.
George: Black kid walking down the street (if he’s mentoring Black kids, he knows our dress, rhythm of step are different and easily identifiable; and neighbors testified to suspecting Blacks kids breaking which is what alerted GZ to TM in the first place). He’s pacing, walking in circles, staring at houses. Alert the police.
Black community: 17-year old kid trying to get out of the house and away from his parents (no other reason to leave the house in the rain for tea and candy). He’s on the phone, walking slow—delaying going home/staying in conversation with his friend.
When I am outside walking/talking on the phone and I know where I am, I don’t walk straight. I am laughing and talking on the phone. This is my entire point.
There is a different assumption made about who is walking down which street. It is dangerous for Blacks to be pedestrians, twice over.
I take great offense to #& #3 because I have been stopped, searched and questioned on foot and in my car. Suspicious behavior is looking through windows, checking to see if doors/windows are locked, not looking at houses from the sidewalk. And, again, he’s not that smart if his tools for breaking in are candy and drinks.
I still hold that if the ethnicities I this case were different, Martin would still be alive. Why is there the immediate assumption that Martin had malicious intent? His address and his pocket contents say otherwise, but our assumptions and fears of Black male teenagers lead us to the conclusion to follow, detain and search because they are guilty until proven innocent—and then still monitored.
Race was used as part of Zimmerman’s defense. Neighbors testified that Black teens had caused the neighborhood “to live in fear.” There’s a heightened awareness and fear of Blacks in the neighborhood. That’s on the transcript for the case.
4. Being followed raises a gambit of emotions inside of people. I don’t know if anyone responds logically. Hindsight, people always have 20/20 vision and suggestions. Nowhere in any transcript, interview or version of events (as Zimmerman has changed them a view times) has it been stated that Zimmerman identifies himself. So, we have a Black kid walking home, with someone following him in a car and on foot. My inclination is not to walk up to this person and say, “Is there a reason why you are following me?” “Can I help you? Are you lost?” “You must be a concerned citizen of the neighborhood. Don’t worry, talking to a friend on the phone.” My thought process is it’s night, it’s raining and I am being followed. My life is in danger.
Your stunning conclusion that even if Martin would have survived he would have been charged with assault is outrageous. Zimmerman “stood his ground” and killed an teenager armed with sugar only. Martin being followed attacked someone and “stands his ground” and your conclusion is to charge him with assault? Reiterates my point of racial bias in the country. There is a lose/lose scenario for Martin. He would have been killed, arrested or charged for trying to walk home. That doesn’t happen to anyone else and the fact that people don’t see that is what hurts us the most. Perfect love should cast out the fear Trayvon Martin not look for evidence—absent or assumed—that he was preparing to rob a house. Here’s another article on the realities of so-called colorblindness in this country:
5. Not negating Zimmerman defended himself.
6. Not negating the fight either. Zimmerman got beat up.
7. Inconclusive. Grandmother was and aunt is a registered nurse. Dad is a criminal attorney. I am not refuting Zimmerman was in a fight and lost. I will not definitively say either one of them threw the first punch. There are three versions of the events of that night: Evidence, Zimmerman’s version and Martin’s. Evidence reveals a lot. So does Zimmerman’s. We don’t know Trayvon’s…and Zimmerman opted not to testify. The only time always advice someone not to testify to their own defense is because they won’t be able to handle cross-examination. Furthermore, Zimmerman’s story has changed consistently throughout this entire ordeal.
My frustration has come from the fact that if I am in Zimmerman’s shoes, Trayvon Martin isn’t dead. No matter what angle I approach it, no matter what point in the story, the catalyst that resulted in Trayvon’s loss of life is not a punch. It’s the moment Zimmerman decided a call to police wasn’t enough. The moment he decided to get out of his car. Perfect love casts out fear. Love also is patient and kind…and not easily angered.
This is a tragic case. I am not disagreeing with that at all. Our greatest hopes and deepest fears are inserted here, with the possibility of both Zimmerman and Martin being both. I believe they are both probably somewhere in the middle, neither is completely innocent or guilty.
What hurts is that, as is the case with incidents of race in this country, race is the first thing dismissed. “This isn’t about race” is always the answer from the majority. Sometimes true, sometimes not. But race was part of the evidence. Race was part of the history of the neighborhood and race is what is polaring the nation still.
We can say all day long this was about race and someone can argue we are completely wrong.
And that means this cycle will continue.
There is this continued philosophy that minorities, in this case, Black ones, are misinformed. That the country, the police see us differently than we think. We’re in a post-racial, color-blind society.
Heaven will be multi-ethnic and glorious as we celebrate our rich diversity and culture.
Earth: I love people and serve cross-culturally. I just cannot do it alone. For several reasons.
For the sake of community.
For the sake of my safety.
And I think I am bowing out.
I am being affirmed by Black friends for being fearless and vocal, while being chastised by my counterparts for making this about race.
We cannot force anyone to see this case from our perspective, the trauma that is not felt whenever we see a Black kid in a hoodie, that perception is 9/10 reality–except for us.
We will just dress nicer, walk slower, avoid some communities when alone and run back inside because some people think the world treats us equally.
Our perception is just different.
Until Christ returns.
I am glad you are involved in campus ministry. I am too (but not full-time). The fact we have this in common is one reason I wanted to engage you on this. I was hoping this interaction would develop into a long-lasting friendship. This will be my last post on this topic, but if you want to email and chat about anything else – I would gladly welcome that. I just want to make some final comments.
I believe you are looking at the case emotionally. You say #2 is offensive and painful, but that doesn’t make it untrue. George is the one who called 911. You also state the case is all about perceptions. Again, not true. Truth is objective, not subjective. I am certain that if I was Black I would be emotional about this case and it would affect my judgment. But I also see Blacks like Charles Barkley and Crystal Wright among others who see the case as I do. This leads me to think it is not impossible to set emotions aside and judge the case based on the facts.
You write: “Martin being followed attacked someone and “stands his ground” and your conclusion is to charge him with assault?” This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the law. SYG means you are not required to retreat. It does not give Trayvon the right to attack George. I’m afraid these kinds of statements may mislead young people about their rights under the law. Yes, Trayvon would most definitely have been charged for assault and because he is close to 18 years old, he would have been charged as an adult. My conclusion has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the evidence presented at trial.
Finally, I would repeat my earlier request that you try to put yourself if George’s shoes as volunteer to help keep the neighborhood safe. It could be an amazing learning experience for you.
You are my brother. Keep loving God and the Church! And stay Fearless! It is your heritage in Christ.
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