When I think of it, the parallels between Trayvon and my own son come to mind. But for the grace of God, I could be in his parent’s shoes – grieving for a child lost way too soon.
I’m away at school and for the most part surrounded by people that don’t look like me. For a moment, I am desperately lonely and want to go home. I want to be with people who look like me and understand the everyday struggle to process the racism, miscarriages of justice and ongoing pain that is a part of being black in America.
But, Instead I have to go to class and look at them. Yes, them. For in this moment there is a deep chasm between us. I swear if even one of them tries to explain this cockamamie non-sense about self-defense I’ll start screaming. I already know I will lose it. I feel myself on the edge because in my heart I know – if it were one of their children lying dead there would be no debate. And that makes me even angrier.
As I write out my frustrations I am struck by how I have so easily taken on the characteristics of the very thing that I despise. I have, with a very wide brush painted “them” all the same. For a brief moment, they have all become George Zimmerman, and I am Trayvon Martin. Isn’t it a shame? I am perpetuating the very mess that caused the tragedy.
This is our collective daily struggle – to face injustice and yet remain just; to paint with a small brush so that we capture the details rather than a wide roller covering “them” all the same. Given the atrocities of the sick and evil among us, it’s so easy to allow our anger to lead us down this path. And yet if we are ever to experience healing we must stretch ourselves beyond the status quo of separatism.
So what then is our response when faced with such senseless tragedy? How do we process a grief that cuts to the quick, leaving us bleeding and in pain?
Like you, I keep searching for a national agenda that will lead us forward. But like most great changes in the course of history, I have come to realize it will likely not be the government that initiates a pathway forward. It will instead be the brave among us that dare to believe that they can make a difference. And like all great revolutions, the changes must start with our individual choices: to heal, forgive, and get in gear.
It will take a while for the pain of this tragedy to grow dim. While many of us say we are not shocked, for most of us there is still the moment when we are stunned. We so desperately want to believe that we have grown beyond the days of Emmitt Till. Our upwardly mobile lifestyles allow us to do so, lulling us into a false sense of security until the world slaps us in the face with its harsh realities. But we must remember that justice denied is really only justice deferred. In the end, God will take care of it all. He is not bound by our narrow, time-sensitive understanding of justice, but instead has His own day for reckoning. For me, believing that is the first step on the path to peace and healing.
We also must forgive George Zimmerman. Not because He asked for it or deserves it. This is for us, so that we are not eaten up by the same fear, bitterness and hatred that drove him. So that we do not allow “those people” to become “them”, and we become us. For in truth, we are “them” and there is only one us. The more we understand that the less unbridled fear can take hold.
Finally, we have to get in gear. I can’t speak for you, but in becoming a global citizen I have neglected a little too long my own backyard. Yet we see time and time again how it’s local and state laws that allow for such egregious miscarriages of justice. We cannot wait for national elections to get involved. We must be active in our own town while keeping a watchful eye on shifts in our broader world.
This is the last time we can afford to be caught standing on the sidelines. Let “Justice for Trayvon” become a rallying cry for self-reflection and social change. Let it remind us of the importance of having the courage to be just in an unjust world, and to stand firm against fear while sewing seeds of love. Let it lead to purposeful action that channels our righteous indignation into activity that creates pathways to healing, reconciliation and restoration.
Once again, the alarm has sounded. Will we heed the call? ❤