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