I once had a friend who hatched a plan to sabotage my relationship with my girlfriend. When I confronted him about it, he told me that it was “water under the bridge”. Do you see why I might be frustrated? He sinned against me and then minimized my pain by telling me it was “water under the bridge” when he had no right to make that declaration.
When white folks get on Facebook or Twitter, or plain old-fashioned run their mouths and say things like, “The Trayvon Martin case isn’t about race,” or “people should get over it” then they are doing what my friend did. They are making a declaration they have no right to make.
The Trayvon Martin case is a complicated mess. Maybe Zimmerman was justified. According to a jury, there wasn’t enough evidence to prove otherwise. Maybe he instigated the incident despite the police orders to stand down and bears culpability for Trayvon’s death. I don’t know and the really hard thing about the case is that no one really knows. But that does not mean this case does not have profound implications for race relations in America or that the hurt felt by African-American community deserves dismissal.
Trayvon’s death and Zimmerman’s trial and subsequent acquittal did not occur in a vacuum, but rather they occurred in the United States, a country that for many decades chose to keep men and women in bondage as a source of cheap labor; a country that failed to implement the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill to protect black men from mob violence; a country that segregated black students into lesser school; a country that tested the effects of syphilis on black servicemen without their knowledge or consent; a country that didn’t provide enforcement for the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution for a century after their ratification; a country that acquitted the murderers of fourteen year-old Emmett Till; and a country that disproportionately incarcerates black men. The death of a seventeen year-old human being who happens to be black should not be a time for white people to be defensive, but a time to mourn with the African-American community at large, to acknowledge the messiness of this case, and to desire for Trayvon Martin’s family peace and healing.
But instead, I see white folks on Facebook cracking jokes, minimizing the Martins’ pain, and trying to justify Zimmerman’s highly questionable actions. Disturbingly, some of these people are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever happened that night, consider what has happened to the African-American community, many of whom worship the same Jesus we worship, or we desire they might. Given that Paul says in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ (Gal. 3:28), let’s take Paul’s admonition to mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15) as Tricia Newbell helpfully reminded us today.
Trayvon Martin cannot be dismissed. The water is most definitely not under the bridge. His parents cannot be swept under a rug. George Zimmerman life is most likely ruined and he will need forgiveness for blood shed just as we all do (Acts 5:30). And no amount of social media posturing by defensive people will help this country heal. Rather, acknowledging the very real pain of Trayvon’s parents and the African-American community in general, and graciously applying the healing power of Christ Jesus to this messy situation as his grace has been applied to us, will bring us closer to each other rather than widening the divide. As Carlos Griego, a church planter in Rio Rancho, New Mexico tweeted, “Know someone who is outraged about #JusticeForTrayvon? Listen, listen, listen. And listen some more.”
What was your reaction to George Zimmerman’s acquittal? How can you mourn with Travon’s family no matter your feelings on Zimmerman’s trial? How would you mourn the loss of your seventeen year-old son?