Sunday, July 14, 2013

Who is My Neighbor and the Death of Trayvon Martin

When the news broke, last night, that the jury had reached a verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, facing second-degree murder charges for killing Trayvon Martin, I was on the edge of my seat. I didn't have an optimistic feeling of the outcome, but, still, I wanted to hear it for myself. The words cut through me like a knife--"On the charge of second-degree murder, we the jury, find George Zimmerman not guilty."

I had strong reaction, some of which I expressed within the confines of my home, others which I expressed via Facebook and Twitter, and others which I couldn't find the words to express. Anger, disgust, despair were just a few of the emotions I experienced and expressed. Some others I won't reiterate here because this is a family-blog folks. Okay, not really, but even still--you smart people can likely infer what my other reactions might have been.

Many other people shared very similar reactions. This young man died for no real reason, other than that he was black and George Zimmerman was scared. The jury's verdict of "not guilty" reinforced the notion that black life, particularly young, black male life is dispensable of no value. Many of the people who shared this reaction were my pastor-type friends on Facebook and Twitter, who had already written their sermons but were now confronted with a gross injustice that spoke contrary to the gospel. How should they proceed? This is a particularly challenging task when many of their parishioners experienced the verdict of the trial very differently.

I find it no coincidence that today's lectionary text was the story of the Good Samaritan. As I am unchurched, and have been for a few years, I know this from these pastor-type friends whose whole plans for Sunday morning were shattered. Some frantically rewrote their sermons; others "winged it" and let the Spirit lead. Yet, most agreed that in the death of Trayvon Martin and the verdict in George Zimmerman's trial we saw a real life "samaritan" story play out. They challenged those sitting in the pews to recognize that the black young man was, indeed, their neighbor.

On February 26, 2012 my neighbor, a 17-year-old boy, was tragically killed while returning from the corner convenience store for a snack--Skittles and an iced tea. He was killed by another neighbor, a man who was prompted by fear and prejudice to "stand his ground" and not only shoot but kill this boy. Who is my neighbor? Both the boy and the man are my neighbor. However, the boy never had the opportunity to live his life because racism is alive and well.

Rest in peace, my dear neighbor, Trayvon.

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