In response to the George Zimmerman verdict, President Obama said, “We are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.”
But what do you do when the laws are not written for the good of all and the jurors don’t look like the victim?
To me, the Zimmerman verdict was a miscarriage of justice that resembles the 1955 case of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy who was murdered for breaking one of the unspoken laws of being black: “Don’t whistle at a white woman.”
Zimmerman’s victim, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, broke another unspoken law of being black: “Don’t walk around in a predominantly white neighborhood at night.” Trayvon’s murder reminds us that America has still not dealt with its skeletons of racism.
The most disturbing part of the post-verdict discussion is the split perspectives I have noticed between white and black Christians.
After the verdict, one of my white conservative brothers tweeted, “I hope that black pastors will take the high road in their pulpits tomorrow.” He went on to say, “We can’t fight racism with racism.”
Racism, brother, is a world view shaped by the dominant culture which seeks to deny power to a minority group that it deems inadequate.
Speaking out against a skewed judicial process is not racist; it is, in fact, a courageous and prophetic response.
Justice is a byproduct of empowering the voices of the powerless to be heard. When we mute the voices of the powerless through unjust misrepresentation, that is racist.
There were many whites, blacks, Latinos, men and women who were outraged by this verdict. Where were those outraged diversified voices in this process. The jury has not been heard.
In the early 1990’s, my theology professor would challenge us to think by asking us how “so and so’s” explanation of a text was going to fly in this “male-dominated, blue-eyed world?”
My professor was an older white man who I highly respected. His question was sort of sarcastic, and it made me wince every time I heard it. Now I understand what he meant.
The way we see this world has been filtered through a racist colonial lens that equates white with right and black with wrong. My professor was trying to teach us the importance of seeing the world through lenses not tainted with a racist paternal perspective.
As believers, of course, we must consult a higher court on these matter. In this court there is no partiality. The evidence involves the blood and it is the blood that helps us to distinguish who is guilty and who is forgiven.
We cannot respond with vengeance because that would be returning evil for evil. We must speak truth to power because every child in America deserves to be safe and deserves to be heard.