Why I Fear "Good" People: Trayvon Martin and Kony 2012

Sharifa Stevens's picture

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” And he replied, “I don’t know! Am I my brother’s guardian?” But the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” 

“Good” people of the United States have been killing the black body since the first unfortunate souls were bought and sold after surviving the cruel middle passage from Africa to the Americas in the 16th century. The good people held these truths to be self-evident; all (white) men are created equal. Some of the Founding Fathers also fathered brown or tan sons whom they sold away at a profit, or, if they were more beneficent, kept as slaves in their own household. The Glory Days of the United States and the “Christian” morals some hold dear and wish to return to--frighten me. Because during those days that so many long to return to, a man could buy, sell, or kill me or my son with no consequence.

Jim Crow replaced slavery with a wicked insidiousness that continued to presume that a black body was worth, at most, three-fifths of a white one. Not worthy of rights to vote, to be educated, to live with dignity. Separate and unequal. The strange fruit of black bodies swung from trees, burned in the pyres made by murderous mobs, or would turn up mangled and shot in the back. Churches with little girls were bombed by the good people who lived just across the tracks. In the United States, good citizens could blast little girls to chunks and pieces and go home to kiss their wives and children. Or teach Sunday school.

Fast-forward to the present-day. This country and its good citizens have been touted by some as “post-racial.” That is far from the truth. I’ve been called overly-sensitive for believing that there are racial undertones to the slogans that talk about “taking America back” or not “re-nigging in 2012.” Too sensitive, even when the slogans are paired with images (just google "don't re-nig in 2012" for an idea) of the President of the United States depicted with exaggerated lips and eyes, or drawn with the body of monkey. 

And now this week, Trayvon Martin and Joseph Kony blow up my social media in ironic juxtaposition. (Mostly) black people have posted their outrage over the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin by a neighborhood watch captain who thought he looked “suspicious” (while carrying a bag of Skittles and some iced tea), while (mostly) white people have created a social media phenomenon in sharing a 30-minute video from filmmaker and former missionary Jason Russell to bring down Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, over 100 million times. 

Trayvon Martin and Joseph Kony are two sides of a coin in a cultural currency that must go bankrupt, if not in this country, then at least in the community of faith. 

In Trayvon Martin’s case, the 17-year-old was issued a death sentence because he was black and perceived to be in the wrong neighborhood. The man who killed him, George Zimmerman, is free. Never charged. Never even arrested. Right here, right now in 2012, he can ostensibly go home and kiss his wife and teach Sunday School.

Joseph Kony’s reputation is indefensible; he is evil, and doing his part to slaughter young boys just like Trayvon very single day, for years. He should be brought down. 

What nauseates and scares me is the deafening silence from the masses concerning Trayvon Martin, our neighbor. It’s curious to me how easily 100 million people could see the Kony video, buying t-shirts and forwarding videos, and yet remain silent about the neighborhood watchman in their own backyard who shot an unarmed boy for carrying Skittles. 

I tried and tried to write this piece without anger and fear, with a polite impartial distance. I can’t. My son may be looking down the barrel of a gun someday just because of how he looks. I need to start begging for his life now by asking you to care, to see, to know who your neighbors are and to be your brother’s keeper. 

As it stands now, if the Kony 2012 campaign is successful, and when invisible children of Uganda are given asylum in this country, they will still be in danger.

I’ve observed an American evangelical phenomenon: let’s go care for the the poor black souls in the country of Africa (yes, I wrote that on purpose), let’s do little mission trips (you know, the touristy kind) to make us feel good about all we have while we get rid of our cast-off clothing, let’s post our facebook pictures with the little nameless black mascot, er, baby from said country...but still clutch our purses when a “suspicious” young man crosses our path with Skittles and iced tea, avoid eye contact at all costs, and remain silent at neighborhood injustices that may blur the thick red line of our politics. 

It’s suspect to me that some in our community create an organized, trendy outcry to injustice abroad and turn a blind eye, or worse, deny, the injustice at home. And having been profiled, snubbed and belittled too many times by good Christian people because of how God created me, I’m sick of being polite. For my son’s sake, I must speak out.

Jesus was profiled by some good, law abiding Pharisees. Judged as a criminal, he was unjustly accused and tried, and the good people hung him from a tree. 

The Lord heard Abel’s spilled blood crying out after his brother Cain killed him. He heard and He was not pleased. It may be acceptable for the good citizens of this country to constantly turn a deaf ear to the legacy of persistent racism in this country and the latest iteration; the murder of a teenager carrying Skittles. It is not acceptable for the community of Jesus-followers to do so.

We are our brother’s keeper, aren’t we?

Comments

Sharifa,

I'm glad you went for honest and not "polite." This is a message that must still, sadly, be said. Thank you for the courage to do so.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

Julie, thank you.

Very well written, Sharifa! I am there with you 100%. The depths of hypocrisy in so-called "good", especially "good Christian" people, is hard to fathom - but illustrated regularly in the U.S.  What really frightens me are the attempts by the "good" God-fearing people to undo all the progress that has been made in this country in regards to civil rights, moral decency and cultural awareness of these issues. The verdict in the Zimmerman trial is tragic, as is the overturning of part of the voting rights act and the complete disregard for the plight of the wrongly imprisoned and poorest of the poor. We must stay vocal on these issues and encourage others to do the same.

'As it stands now, if the Kony 2012 campaign is successful, and when invisible children of Uganda are given asylum in this country, they will still be in danger.'

Sharifa, this quote is SO true and so scary . . .for all of us.  Thanks for your honest and thought-provoking rant.  As a mother, a black woman, a Christian - you have every right and reason to.

Forgive us for we know not what we do BUT when it is pointed out, give us the courage to own it, confess it and, by the power of the Holy Sprit, change it!

Sharifa Stevens's picture

...to that prayer, Ann! And thank you for letting this mama get it out, and receiving it with grace.

I'll start with some basic premises. ALL men are evil. Man is born with an innate selfish, sinful, evil nature. With that as a starting block, racism will never be gone on earth. We should resist and oppose it, but don't ever think that it can be erradicated. No amount of legislation or education can change that because we live in a world full of people who hate God and can do no other by their very nature, aside from the Grace of God.

The thing with Kony 2012 is the same as any other internet fad. People get riled up about it, post a lot on facebook and twitter, so they can make themselves think they are making a difference in the world. Then they log off and go back to their sheltered lives of Farmville and Jersey Shore.

I'm not sure what kind of area you live in but where I live (coastal Virginia) everyone is talking about Treyvon Martin and I have yet to hear anyone say anything supporting Zimmerman's actions. Surprisingly, very very few people anywhere are talking about Melissa Coon's son who was set on fire for being "white". There's racism on both sides of the false dichotomy of "white vs black". Just like there is evil on both sides of Israel vs Arab world, or muslim vs hindu. We are human beings, we kill each other and we curse God. We've mastered that for thousands of years.

So what should the Christian do in response to this? Fear is certainly not an appropriate response. What did Christ say? Check out Matthew 10:26-33 (ESV). Christ knew that that the root cause of societal problems was a heart issue. And who can change the heart but God? So what we do is, preach the Gospel, live the Gospel, and pray for God to change the hearts of men. Don't try to treat the problem through tertiary means.

What, exactly, do you mean by "tertiary means" in this particular case? The (very long) history of violence against Blacks is well-documented, and many Blacks see this as yet another example of it. The similarly long history of silence from conservative churches which condoned (and even perpetrated) the violence is also similarly documented.

So do you suggest that we simply evangelize, do good, and pray as our response to such tragedies and do no more? If so, how do we reconcile James 2:14-19?

What I mean by tertiary means is trying to treat a sliced artery with a bandaid. Legislation is what the response usually is and these only treat the symptoms. I'm not saying we should do nothing, but the biggest problem is the heart of man. You have a valid concern that people will just sit on their hands, but I don't think James is speaking of political activism. It seems to me James' main point was addressing brethren that claimed to be Christians and continued in their life of sin. The problem I have personally, and Deitrich Bonhoeffer seemed to go through a similar ordeal, is trying reconcile Romans 13 and the acts of Christ to injustices of the world.You can't sit by and do nothing, but the problem is much bigger than political activism.

One observation about today's civil rights/anti racist climate. You don't see men like MLK leading the movement anymore. All you tend to see is the leftists, statist, racist fools like Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, and Al Sharpton. So if we start anywhere, that's where we should start. Godly men.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

The problem with your posts, Micah, is that you didn't need to read or interact with my blog post to write it. Your tone is dismissive, you don't actually engage with what I wrote (which is probably why you come up with erroneous conclusions), and then you speak of my fear or political activism solutions.

Is being your brother's keeper now an act of legislation?

You presume too much and have far too little compassion in your response. It's like going to a widow's house fresh from the funeral and telling her to buck up and stop crying because her saved husband's with Jesus now. Correct concept? Yes. Effective, timely, compassionate theology and Christ-likeness? No. Jesus would have cried.

Your response, ironically, is a bandaid clumsily misapplied to the hurt expressed in my blog post. It doesn't help, and it stings, and I was better off without it. 

I apologize first for sounding like I don't care. I am a very abrasive person and I am sorry.

I get very frustrated when I read posts like this that make sweeping generalizations. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and not assume that you are the type of person that sees racism under every rock. I jumped to that conclusion when I read your 3rd paragraph. You do have a valid point abou the re-nig bumper sticker, but I think I just am sheltered because literally all my black friends tend to chuckle at people making big deals about things like, for example, the congressman who caught flak recently used the word niggardly in the most proper and literal way possible.

I am not at all denying that racism does not exist. In fact I am trying to say it will always be there. That doesn't mean I take it lightly, but I try to look at it rationally and realistically.

And the legislation issue, that's usually where people end up taking these arguments, so I did assume too much there.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

I appreciate your candor, Micah, and I really admire it.

I accept your apology, and I will also give you the benefit of the doubt, that you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater by dismissing valid incidents of racism just to make a point. I know where your presumptions come from; I've seen people benefit from rallying against racism...like vultures. But because of this, it's extremely important to exercise discernment before judging. Extremely. Important.

I'm humbled by your willingness to come back to the table, Micah. That blesses me. I do hope that you will consider that maybe my words are not unrealistic or irrational, though they may be emotional. One thing my words are not - exhaustive. Although I wish I could solve the sin of racism in a single blog post, I can't. But I know the solution to sin, and I am leaning on Him.

I hope for change through loving God and loving one's neighbor as one's self. I think that we are in agreement there? That's the ground I wish to stand on with you.

Thank you both for engaging in a civil yet passionate discussion of your differences.  It seems that humility and passion are rarely seen together in public discourse.

The danger with this sort of response is it encourages people of faith to sit on their hands (or live in their prayer closets) while wickedness continues around them-especially when the problem doesn't affect them directly. Psalms, Proverbs, Christ's words, and the epistles all condemn this response. God changes hearts, and if you read his Word, he often uses his people in the process. It's easy to “correct” a woman's fears for her son's life by quoting Matthew 10, but miss the depth of pain caused by sin.  Instead, allow her pain to guide how your heart (and thus actions) should be affected by such sin. Here, it seems the author's point is not to call others to be fearful, though she admits to her fear. Rather, she says “I need to start begging for his life now by asking you to care, to see, to know who your neighbors are and to be your brother’s keeper.” She's asking us to get out into our world and engage others with the truth of the gospel-to be Christ even if it messes with our relationships with our neighbors, friends, or family (Matt. 10.34-39). That's not tertiary. That's primary.

"No amount of legislation or education can change [the existence of racism] because we live in a world full of people who hate God and can do no other by their very nature, aside from the Grace of God."

Godlessness is not the problem Sharifa has identified. She has quite plainly (and accurately) noted that for hundreds of years, "good Christian" white folk have perpetrated terrible racism and injustice in this country. The non-believers are not the problem. The problem is people (including Christians) living apart from each other and not seeing the humanity, the divine spark in each other--as if the color of their skin dimmed that light.

Last week in Sunday School I got to correct some false notions about the Kony2012 campaign; maybe this week it will be Trayvon Martin. The Spirit has inspired me to pray a little less and talk a little more about these issues. We are God's hands, mouths, and feet in the world.

Sharifa, your observation about how the "invisible children" of Uganda would be no safer here is very moving. Because of who I was born, I haven't personally known your fear. But the anger at this and other injustices knows no skin color.

Bless you.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

Tschlusse,

Your words - the way you succinctly examined the issue like a jeweler would the facets of a diamond - move me to tears. Your entire post causes me to pause and reflect on the gravity and resolution of speaking more (and I can tell you that speaking more will cause you to pray more as well!).

Amen - and may we all see the imago dei spark in one another.

I pray I see the divine spark more and more in George Zimmerman as well as in children like Trayvon.

"I have yet to hear anyone say anything supporting Zimmerman's actions."  Perhaps the reason you have yet to hear much support for Zimmerman (you must not watch Fox News) is because very few will openly support the killing of an innocent teen-ager.  I will remind you that it was Zimmerman who elected to bring a gun to a fist fight.  It was Zimmerman who disobeyed police orders and dare you use the Words of Jesus Christ to try and justify Trayvon's senseless death.  Any murder of someone whether black or white is ungodly.

I'm in tears right now, I just keep holding my baby, hoping that his fate isn't at the end of a gun barrel because of his skin color.  I'm praying for justice and Sharifa I love you and appreciate the gift of writing you have, you've said what I'm been trying to say in my tears, I keep crying out for my husband, son and men in my family, praying for their protection. 

Sharifa Stevens's picture

Let's pray for our little ones, together, that they would be judged by the content of their character.

I'm crying with you.

This is my first time over in your space... (came over from the Livesays) and I just want to tell you that I think what you said here is brave and courageous and straight from the heart of a mama bear (which all us mama's have in us, be it black or white). I can not imagine the lifetime of concern that you carry due to skin color alone and while I know you need nothing in terms of affirmation or condolence or whatever the word may be, I just wanted to tell you that this a fiercly truthful and powerful set of words... and I admire that.

I live in Southwest Georgia so I have seen the "racial divide" that while may no longer be lawful, is still very much alive and well in the people who reside as neighbors, but are still very much separated. And so your words ring as true today as they ever have.

Thank you for speaking honestly and openly...may we all learn and live from it.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

Your words are apples of gold in settings of silver, fellow mama.

Racial divide still prevails on this part of the country and I feel bad for it.
 

A few years ago two black teenagers carjacked my wife and two of her friends at gun point. They had moved to Houston after Katrina and got involved with a gang. I will not go into the details. It would serve no purpose.

I got very angry at these boys and through a series of police friends I found them, I bought a gun and I meant to do them harm. I fed on the hate, I cherished the hate, I wanted blood. Most people would say I had every right. But not Jesus. Jesus blessed His enemies from the cross, at the end of a spear, in agony. 

Jesus broke me down. I have now been mentoring boys in Harris County Juvenile probation for 5 years now. Jesus gave me a love for these boys, I am not kidding. He turned my anger and hate into love and concern. I spend between 9 months to a year with each boy, some of the toughest gang bangers in Houston. I pray with them, read with them, laugh with them, suffer with them. Not me, but Jesus in my crucified flesh. I hated them, I wanted to kill them. To Jesus they are just boys, lost boys.

Do not allow your hate, your feelings of injustice, your agony to rule you. I know it sounds trite, but allow your flesh to be crucified in Christ, then live through Him, always. Racism or the feelings of injustice associated with it are not to be held or cherished as something that belongs to us. We belong to Jesus. If we truly will crucify ourselves with Him, we will see Him in everyone and we will see change, one life at a time, one day at a time, one prayer at a time. You know this to be true. Able's blood no longer is crying out. Jesus has overcome all hate, all lies, all. We can love now, we can overcome whether or not we get "justice" in our minds.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

First of all, what a horrible thing that happened to your wife and her friends. I am SO sorry. That is such a violation, and so frightening.

Secondly, praise God for how He has moved you to love in such a constructive and positive way. I honor and respect your submission to God.

I am horrified that police would help you to find people and possibly shoot them, because this is vigilante justice with the aid of people who should be enforcing the law. I am so glad that God pulled you back from the brink.

If I may correct you concerning my feelings; I don't feel hate, I feel terror. I do feel agony, and I feel helplessness. Why? We live in the "already/not yet" part of the salvation story. We are saved, we are being saved. Jesus has overcome, Jesus will overcome. Things have not been made right, but they are being made right.

This sentence, "Racism or the feelings of injustice associated with it are not to be held or cherished as something that belongs to us. We belong to Jesus", is food for thought. I promise to consider it, because I want to live as Jesus did, and I hear you; Jesus trumps all.

I hope, too that you will consider along with me the ways Jesus challenged a corrupt status quo in the gospels, and what, if any, implications His actions affect how we respond to the status quo today.

 

"(Mostly) black people have posted their outrage over the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin"

I have yet to listen to one person of any color who has not shown outrage over this incident.  I have read dozens of articles, thousands of comments, and talked to numerous people.  Every person I've encountered has shown outrage about this incident.  It is not a (mostly) black phenomenon.  When you read the details of the encounter, there is hardly any way that any sane person can not be outraged.

Albeit, there are surely some people in some areas who find this type of incident acceptable, but I'm fairly sure they are in the utter minority of the country's population.  The outrage is fairly universal in what I've seen.  

I suppose if the majority of the commentary you read is coming from members of the black community, you might believe that they are expressing the majority of the outrage, but if you look at commentary from all over the country and multiple sources - you'll find everyone is outraged.  I've seen hundreds of comments expressing outrage on conservative sites, liberal sites, and any other part of the spectrum.   Please don't assume that people aren't outraged, or are less bothered, just because they aren't black.  We are all people, and when incidents like this happen - we all suffer for it.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

DW, I'm glad that to hear what you've reported. I've read at least two articles that talk about Trayvon Martin as a possible arsonist and dangerous person because he was suspended from school, as well as a defense of George Zimmerman as lawfully using the Stand Your Ground law. I'm happy that you've been shielded from that pablum. I'm encouraged that you hear uniform outrage, and not deafening silence.

Silent indifference is what I experienced and that is what I wrote about. I think there's a groundswell of interest that has grown, and I'm encouraged by this. But I witnessed the silence.

Hear me: I am presuming the exact opposite of what you're saying -- I think that we ARE all people and we do ALL suffer for incidents like this. I am appealling to the best in us as I reveal the pain that I've experienced. I would like us all to be our brothers' keepers.

What I'm not asking in this blog is whether any people are okay with Trayvon Martin being shot, which I think is your point. Hopefully, the answer to that would be a universal and resounding NO.

You mention the "good people" 

Jesus says... twice actually.... "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" (Matt 9:13 and Matt 12:7) He is saying it to the Pharisees... the "good people" the "rule followers"

This concept of "I desire mercy not sacrifice" is also mentioned several times in the Old Testament. {1 Samuel 15:22-25, Psalm 40:6-8, Hosea 6:6, Isaiah 1:11-17, Jeremiah 7:21-23, Proverbs 21:3, Psalm 51:16-17, Micah 6:6-8}

 

 What He is saying is that He desires mercy, love, compassion, grace.... not sacrifice, not rituals, not empty burnt offerings, not "law abiding citizens," and not people that simply go through the motions. 

 As Christians, I think sometimes we think we are "good" because we go through the motions and follow a set of rules... but that is not what following Christ is about. He wants us to be merciful, loving, compasionate, giving, hospitable, and so on. 

 

This type of racism has been going on for years, and the irony of caring for black people in Africa, and not our own black neighbours, is brought up as well in the novel "The Help".

In the scenario in the Help, the same women who treat their maids with contempt and inequality, run fundraisers for the "poor children of Africa".  Its very ironic, and maybe reveals alot about our own humanity; 

We prefer to care about issues that don't affect us personally, or don't involve any personal sacrifice of any kind. 

Sharifa Stevens's picture

Joanna,

That's a great analogy from The Help, and your last sentence pretty much sums it up - for all of us. I know I have many times been guilty of preferring comfort and ignorance to sacrifice and compassionate action. It's a dangerous, but righteous, prayer to ask God to break our hearts with what breaks His.

I sense the hatred pournig out of the author against white people.  This makes me very sad.  I wish Jesus would heal her heart.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

...my wonderful husband is white, and so is my mother-in-law and brothers and sisters-in-law. My son is the beautiful result of our union.

But I agree in prayer with you that Jesus heals me completely from my manifold imperfections, as well as the trials of life that have spurred this post. Thank you for your prayers.

Thank you for your reply.  I find myself now rethinking things.  At first I thought you hated white people because I felt you used a big paint brush on all whites as evil racists (my husband is also white).  I've been the victim of racism and had no one to speak out for me.  Perhaps I was sensitive because I felt re-victimized that once again, I was pushed aside based on the color of my skin.  (I'm not white, I'm not black, I'm just a human being.)

Then I read your response and the two following it.  The other two are what I was expecting from you.  "Throwing computers" and knee jerk "well why don't you just..." reactions.  Those are the kind of things I've come to expect from Christians.  

Thank you for setting a better example, it softened my heart, which I wasn't quite expecting.  Isn't there something in your Bible about a soft answer turns away anger or something like that?  

As for the other two responders - yep, I feel the love of their Christ loud and clear.

I wish Jesus would give you the courage to say things using your name and not hiding behind anonymity. 

What you see as hatred, is a heart weeping and wrenching with the thought of injustice... and I believe that to be the heart of Christ as well. 

Have you read some of Christ's speaking to the Pharisees or even to his own disciples?  You will hear the same cry of Christ there as well.  The story of the Good Samaritan has everything to do with race and injustice... and the problem with good people from the other side of the tracks.  "Am I my brother's keeper?"  or "Who is my neighbor" are two ways of asking a very similar question.

Let these cries be always heard!  Let them ring in our hearts and consciences! 

You will also see that there is no hatred in Sharifa, because of the gracious way she responded to you.  I want to throw my computer against the wall.  And, if I need to say (it shouldn't matter).....  I'm white.

You sense it because it's coming out of you. I have repeatedly been astounded at the graciousness of the author in response to every commenter on this post. Don't you DARE use Jesus as a weapon against somebody. Keep your blasphemy to yourself.

Denial (about racism existing) is so much easier than saying "I admit I make decisions about people based on how they look." We're not a people willing to admit our flaws and sinful nature. Instead we just claim it isn't so and move on. 

It is so much more comfortable to fly to a foreign land and hold some brown babies than it is to try to get to know your neighbors that don't look like you.  Community takes hard work, it take risk ... building it with people that aren't exactly like you is even harder.  If you'll take the time to go help Africa, it should also occur to you to get to know your neighbors.

I think you wrote something true and courageous here and having seen my son watched carefully based on nothing but the color of his skin I agree with you that we are a long way from "post racial".

I sense zero hate.  You have my respect Sharifa. 

Sharifa Stevens's picture

Um, yes. YES to this:

 Community takes hard work, it take risk ... building it with people that aren't exactly like you is even harder. 

Tell the truth! I experience this in my own marriage, let alone with people that I haven't covenanted to love! Yes, it's hard work, like most good things in life. It's so worth it. Or else Jesus wouldn't walk around tearing down dividing walls as He ministered. And boy, he tore 'em down.

I hope it's clear that holding brown, or peach, or burnt sienna babies is not bad - it is so good. I cheer, I jump up and down, and I praise God...when it's for reasons beyond a photo opp.

As far as not admiting sin and preferring denial...well, Jesus wants to wash and cleanse us...but we still ought to hold out our feet.

The senseless death of human being is beyond sad and depressing. The police shouldn't let wannabe cops, whether well intentioned or not, roam their neighborhoods with loaded pistols looking to make citizens arrest. Talk about a recipe for disaster.  This young man should have been able to walk the streets without fearing that someone was following him because he looked suspicious. I don't know if race was a part of this deadly encounter, but I know that fear was part of it, fear of robbers, fear of killers, fear of strangers and just maybe fear of different skin coloring. When Trayvon turned around and came toward his killer, what would have happened if Mr. Zimmerman had seen a light colored face? As more facts become known, I hope to find out that Mr. Zimmerman is not a racist, but just a scared, stupid fool that shouldn't have been allowed to walk the streets with a loaded gun. Let's pray for the family and that laws will be changed to keep untrained neighbors from patrolling their streets with deadly weapons.

Let me be clear that I don't mean to excuse what Zimmerman did, however this is a thought that has crossed my mind in the course of reading this article and the comments to it. 

I wonder what George Zimmerman was actually thinking when he shot Trayvon??

Jesus gave us many commands, one of which was to not judge.  While what Zimmerman did was clearly wrong and deserves to be punished by the authorities we are commanded to respect I wonder if there isn't a rush to judgment on this blog regarding the heart and state of mind of Mr. Zimmerman.  Is he a hardened racist who was just out to shoot an innocent young African American?  Clearly this is possible.  Yet isn't it also possible that he actually believed that he saw a gun on Trayvon and fired actually believing that he was in danger?  I don't know. I can't know. I can't get inside of his head to find out. 

Sharifa Stevens's picture

...this blog post wasn't about George Zimmerman's state of mind or heart. 

But if you are interested in his state of mind, listen to the 911 conversations.

thank u thank u for writing this just the way you did. i often hear white people compare racism to an equal amount on both sides white and black. but racism is not and never has been distributed equally. racism against whites or others in america has never by my knowledge been equal to the racism towards blacks in america.......i also agree that far too much goes into african adoption and not adoption of our own black children right here....why is this? im not understanding why.

This is so well written. Thank you for writing it. My heart has been so heavy with sadness, anger, and deep, deep discouragement over this case that I have been unable to wrap words around it. You have done it so much better than I ever could. 

With your permission, I would like to re-post the first part of this on my blog with a link to the remainder of your post. 

Christ's Peace,

Sherri

Sharifa Stevens's picture

Thank you, Sherri. I can SO identify with how you feel; the sadness...the anger...the deep DEEP discouragement.

You have my permission - if I can also access that post! :)

You mention that the "good people held these truths to be self-evident; all (white) men are created equal," as the Declaration of Independence put it. That is, of course, a horrible irony, since Thomas Jefferson wrote it even as he owned slaves, and the United States fell terribly short of that idea over and over again throughout its miserable history.

But I wonder why so many of the greatest movements toward racial equality kept looking back to the Declaration and the Constitution.  Consider Fredrick Douglass' words:

"The Constitution, as well as the Declaration of Independence, and the sentiments of the founders of the Republic, give us a platform broad enough, and strong enough, to support the most comprehensive plans for the freedom and elevation of all the people of this country, without regard to color, class, or clime."

Or Martin Luther King in the March on Washington speech:

"When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir... I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.'"

Were these great African-American leaders wrong to say that true justice comes from looking back to those founding documents?  How could they insist on those principles so much when the men who wrote them were slave owners?  Why DO we object to injustice, anyway?

Sharifa Stevens's picture

kmattwalker, that's a great observation. I think that the people that you referenced were appealling to the document to live up to its word - because the concepts behind the Declaration were not universally applied. It was a call to end the legacy of hypocrisy.

I am the white parent of two Haitian children.  I wanted that known up front.  Trayvon's murder terrifies me.  When we adopted our kids, we knew that there would be times when we would have to deal with racist stuff.  It hasn't been much yet, thankfully, but my son is only 9 and my daughter is 7.  I am probably hypersensitive to anything someone says about my kids.  I am vigilant.  I feel the need to teach them skills to handle words that come from other kids and how to not get drawn into a conflict.  I remind them daily how beautiful they are, inside and out and that God made them that way.  We have great discussions about differences and similarities.  Many days I forget that they don't really look like me.   They are just my kids.  

Still, it can be stressful.  I worry about being judged by the black people in our area.  I fuss over my kids' hair.  I feel like the world is watching us some days.  Why did I sign up for this?  I'll tell you.  When I was in Haiti the first time, this little boy flirted with me.  He was 4 1/2 months old and had the most gorgeous eyes I had ever seen.  He needed a mom and dad.  We prayed and prayed about it.  My husband had previously been tentative - worried about the repercussions in his own family.  THIS child grabbed a hold of his heart, though, and he has never let go.  He melted all the family opposition, too.  My grandmother, who was a quiet racist, forgot all that when she developed Alzheimer's.  She loved my little boy and told me he was amazing.  

Oh, and to be clear, we actually tried to adopt kids from the foster care system in this country first before going to a foreign country "to do good".  We had three failed attempts due to some crazy legal situations.  They were all stepping stones to bring us to the children we really feel were meant to be ours, though.

Okay, so I wrote a novel to say there are people of all colors who are not only outraged, but fearful.  I've seen posts from friends of all colors.  I am trying to set my fear aside and beg God for peace in my heart again.  I am hopeful that the next generation will realize the mistakes of those that went before and press forward to a time when we can all look beyond outward appearances to see what lies inside.  It would be great if that happened in time for my kids to be teenagers since I am doubtful that I will get much sleep during those years otherwise.  

I sincerely hope that Trayvon's family is able to get some justice.  I grieve so much for his family.  I can't even imagine.  I'm so glad people are talking about it, though.  Micah 6:8 states (via The Message):  But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.  It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. 

Thank you for your words, neighbor.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

...hi from across the lawn. :o)

Man, sometimes I wish I could just meet the folks who write posts and sit down and eat delicious morsels and talk about how God led them to where they are.

Your post touched me, for several reasons.

-whenever I am with my family, we are being sized up. I feel your pain.

-i worry waaay too much about what people will say about my or my son's hair

-my family has been disapproved of, both internally (family-wise) and externally

-your son flirted with you - and that sounds like a good story! how wonderful that your son chose you.

But what resonates with me the most is this:

 I am trying to set my fear aside and beg God for peace in my heart again.  I am hopeful that the next generation will realize the mistakes of those that went before and press forward to a time when we can all look beyond outward appearances to see what lies inside.  It would be great if that happened in time for my kids to be teenagers since I am doubtful that I will get much sleep during those years otherwise.

YEAH. YEAH, that's me, too, en2zasm. And he has a few years to teenage-dom, but time flies. I was telling a friend of mine today that I think Trayvon Martin is the Emmett Till of our generation. She corrected me; he's the Emmett Till of this current, quite young, generation.

I think that my act of worship is (constantly, over and over) laying the fear at His feet...and reading the chin-up words he constantly wrote to His people: be strong and courageous. Fear not. 

Sharifa, This is the first I have read of yours, but the way you respond to your readers has me begging for more. It is refreshing and encouraging to stumble upon a blogger who not only thoroughly processes her thoughts, organizes them well into the written word, and points her readers to Christ along the way, but also responds to reader's comments by reminding us of the original post's intentions (let's stay on topic), by appealing to logic, by avoiding the temptation to yield to defensive emotionalism, and yes, once again, by using another opportunity to point us to Christ. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I was going to get on here and say the same things that Anna said. I have been deeply moved by your courageous post and come back to read it several times. Your voice is an important one and I am so SO grateful that you have written. I am sorry that in order to be able to write this you have had to suffer. Not only are your thoughts and responses in this comments section filled with grace and truth and humility but you really put yourself out there to begin with. Thank you for being vulnerable and gracious. Thank you for admonishing us to be our "brothers keeper". I believe it has to begin there, and your words are resounding in me.

You made so many perfectly horrifying parallels to help your readers understand your point of view. I don't know what the true gauge of hearts is, but if I am to gauge hearts by the many opinions of- "racism isn't a big issue anymore" then my only conclusion is that denial is safer and more comfortable than truth.

Thank you Thank you Thank you for speaking this truth and opening many hearts and eyes.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

No, thank YOU. Thank YOU for lifting my chin with your words and thank YOU for your gracious response and thank YOU for wrestling through the issues alongside me and taking the time to write to me about it.

Sharifa Stevens's picture

This is such high praise, Anna D, and when I'm not looking to the right and to the left and then pointing incredulously at myself, saying, "huh? who? ME??" I am clapping my hands that the Spirit's working here. I am SOOOOO encouraged by you today. Thank YOU! Thank YOU! Thank YOU!

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