Well, the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was reached and read and reacted to on Saturday evening, July 13, 2013. Mr. Zimmerman was found “not-guilty.” I have my own thoughts about the verdict and the guilt or innocence of Mr. Zimmerman. But none of those thoughts matter. The prosecution made its case. The defense made its case. The jury made its decision.
I respect that.
I really have no right to criticize or praise the final outcome because I was not present in the courtroom. I did not even come close to hearing all the facts. I followed the trial from a distance. In reality, unless you were sitting in the courtroom for the entire trial, you really can’t say much about the verdict and how it was reached. All you can do is respect the decision. You don’t have to agree with it or disagree with it. You don’t have to like it or dislike it. All you can do is respect it and say, “Wow.”
There is a bigger issue we do need to discuss, and that is the issue of race and white privilege.
I am a member of the dominant group. In truth, I am a WASP through and through. My heritage goes back to England (Anglo-Saxon). Even my denominational heritage finds its roots in England. I am white and I am protestant. I am the dominant group and I a result I grew up in privileged position in our society. That’s not an apology but a statement of fact. What I have learned, and I think I learned it from my desire to follow Jesus, is that with privilege comes responsibility. As a member of the dominant group, I have the responsibility (and duty) to speak up on behalf of the minority groups who have little to no voice and who feel like the system is stacked against them.
Part of that responsibility is sincerely listening to what minority groups are saying, and to listen with a compassionate heart.
- Chris Rock - “Don’t be black in Florida. Don’t be a woman in Texas. Don’t be poor in America.”
- Eugene Cho - “It is dangerous to be a black man in America. Most will never understand this and for those that do, we get it but don’t live it.”
- Jason A. Hines - “You’re seeing white privilege in front of your face, but I’m sure most white people will not see it.”
- Eugene Cho - “Christians like to talk about reconciliation but we have little credibility. We lost our creds when we basically segregated our churches.”
- Obery M. Hendricks - “Trayvon Martin was tried and found guilty of his own murder. In 2013. I am heartbroken.”
- Broderick - “All of you are seeing what we see every single day. This verdict is what my parents warned me about from an early age. Unreal.”
That last tweet, from Broderick, really speaks to me. The outrage in the black community comes out of a context of mistreatment that has been going on for centuries. As a white guy, I can’t fully understand that or even comprehend it. But what I can do is hear what is being said and speak grace into that reality.
Another part of that responsibility is to become active in change. I will be honest, I don’t know what all that means, but what I do know is that it is time for the church to be the church and speak against the systemic racism that is still a strong part of our culture.
Sunday morning, after the verdict, I texted some of my black pastor friends letting them know I was praying for them. One of my friends texted me to let me know his two middle-school aged children are now scared they will be shot and killed because of the color of their skin. Again, I may not be able to fully understand that mentality, but I cannot deny that is how many in the black community are feeling. They have sons and daughters and they are worried about their future as much as I worry about the future of my own children.
Today, what I am asking myself is what I can do is take the words of Paul seriously and let my brothers and sisters of color know I want to help them carry their burden? I want to stand up for injustice and prejudice and discrimination and racism wherever I see it.
I pray for our president.
I pray for the Martin family.
I pray for George Zimmerman and his family.
I pray for myself.
I pray for these 5 boys in the picture with me who are part of my church, and thus, part of my family. I pray the world they grow up in is far different, and better, than my world.
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