Saturday, March 24, 2012

It's Always in the Room

This post contains unedited, racially charged language. If that offends, good. It should. God knows it did me to write it. But we can't deal with what we won't address.

Treyvon Martin is dead.

I believe he's the victim of a crime....a hate crime. That, at this hour the person who pulled the trigger is not in custody propagates the perception that black kids, especially young black men are to be suspected, feared and a problem to be handled and "extreme prejudice" is a justifiable solution.

By all accounts, not least of which is the 911 tape, George Zimmerman was possessed to profile and pursue Treyvon. But why? What was it that deafened George's ears to ignore the order of the 911 operator to stand down?

Was it rage demanding action after a rash of thefts?
Was it lust for recognition that George was the neighborhood watch hero?
Was it a perceived need to protect territory from certain people who dress a certain way who were invading his space?

Whatever was true about why Treyvon sought cover from the rain, as he stood under the awing of an apartment complex clubhouse, on his way back home to catch the second half of the NBA All Star Game--to George, moved to get out of his vehicle, pursue Treyvon, brandish his 9mm, place his finger on the trigger and pull it, what is clear is this - Treyvon received no consideration whatsoever. And why should he? Unless my ears deceive me, to George, Treyvon was not a kid packing skittles and ice tea seeking cover from the rain as he took a short cut home. He was a hoodie wearing thug. He was a "fucking coon."

It's not unusual that when something occurs so egregious that the population collectively recoils at its injustice. The tendency, however, is that we isolate the issues the event raises to the place it occurred. True enough, Sanford has a history. In this case alone, how is it that Zimmerman wasn't placed into custody immediately, even if he was "standing his ground (how one stands one's ground when pursuing someone is a neat trick)?  How is it that the weapon involved wasn't placed into evidence? Why was Treyvon's corpse drug tested but not Zimmerman?

Every community has a history. Some more tortured than others, but all communities do.
I've heard too many commentators in their relentless (if not fruitless) pursuit for relevance, set up the rhetorical straw man that it's so hard to believe that in the 21st Century we still have to deal with issues of if but for the few caricatured reprobates out there we'd have the whole racial thing licked.

It's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. The web of issues intertwined in all that occurred in Sanford that day are not the exclusive domain of that Florida town.  The truth that must be acknowledged is this - they reside first in the human heart. As such, it's always in the room.


I don't care how enlightened you think you above it all you position yourself to be, if there is someone else in your presence...anyone else, it's in the room.

Awareness of difference is as fundamental as realizing that "you" are not "me." That which is different impacts each of us, well, differently. As does different differences elicit different responses.

He's white. She's poor. They're gay. These folks don't speak my language. He's a right winger. She's a bleeding heart liberal. They live on the other side of the tracks. While some differences prompt interest, curiosity and open willingness to know and learn something of humanity that we've not yet seen; other differences bring the response that those who are different must be perceived as a threat.

Any set of differences that gives rise to the thought "and you know how those people are," is a reliable indicator that those differences threaten.

Each of us must wrestle with the implications of "different than." Some of us celebrate difference in what we believe to be a sign of God's Realm. But even the most open minded and open hearted of us must confront the reality that not all our responses to difference are particularly holy.

George Zimmerman's reaction was based on a multitude of factors. It's hard to imagine that race was not chief among them. We all get to see the consequence of his reaction...a young man is dead, a family grieves, and Treyvon becomes another symbol of a long struggle.

The national media doesn't broadcast my responses to difference. But God knows my heart..which is too bad because there's much I try to hide. We who follow the way of Jesus know only too well that our responses to differences are to be molded in the way he did. How we accept the stranger is a sign of our faithfulness.

I can say "I love God" and that "God loves me" all day long.  But those words fall empty in the absence of real outward expression.  And I can only express my love for God outwardly by being in relationship with "you," whoever you are and with whatever particularities of difference from me in which you were created.  My job is not to make "you," "me."  It's to celebrate the "you" you are in relationship with "me" thereby creating "we."

Jesus embraced difference because he never ignored this truth....

It's always in the room.

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