Remembering Trayvon Martin.
Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the death of Trayvon – the then 17-year-old unarmed young black man.
As the debates get renewed on this one-year anniversary and most likely to be intensified when the trials for George Zimmerman begin in June, I’m reminded of the ongoing healing and reconciliation that is necessary – not just in “our country” or in “our world” but in truth, in our own hearts and lives.
As we come to the one year mark since Trayvon’s death, we can’t forget his death. There’s too much at stake. Whatever the results of Zimmerman’s trial, we cannot forget Trayvon’s death.
We have to remember that hoodies don’t kill as short skirts don’t rape.
We need to focus on the justice or the injustice and not the wardrobe. We can’t keep finding reasons to excuse our brokenness and unjust ways.
We need to remember that while we don’t ever want to admit that we are racists and perhaps, that’s true but certainly, as I preached this past Sunday, we have all drank the Kool-Aid of racialization meaning that the categories, perceptions, constructions, and impositions of racial perceptions of race – have influenced us.
Many of us – and likely, ALL of us, have had certain perceptions IMPOSED upon us without even knowing that our lens of seeing race and others have been distorted.
And if this is the case…
we have subconsciously come to see and believe in the myth of the suspicious, scary, and dangerous black man.
Let me explain:
If we’re completely honest…all too often, black men – especially young black men – are seen through the singular story that they are suspicious and scary…if not dangerous. And this, in itself, is unjust. This is racist.
Some years ago, I recall having a very raw and honest conversation with one of my congregants at Quest – the church I planted 12 years ago and have the joy of continuing to serve as one of its pastors.
To be more specific, I was having a conversation with a young African-American congregant – one of the few at Quest if I’m honest.
He shared this story that remains seared in my mind:
“Pastor Eugene, you speak of injustice and prejudice. Thank you for sharing you story. I wanted to also share my story with you. In fact, I feel my “otherness” every single day. Every single day.
You see, I get on the Seattle Metro Bus early on its transit up North as it makes its way South to downtown Seattle where I work. As you can assume, the bus gets eventually crowded. In fact, it gets packed. But when I get on the bus, I am always among the first ten passengers and each of us can choose where to sit. And yes, we all choose to sit…alone. But as the bus makes it way from stop to stop, I begin to notice something. People are eager to find seats and every single day, every seat is taken…but nearly every single day…one seat remains…the last seat taken.
Can you guess what seat that is?
Yes, it is the seat next to me. It is the last seat taken. Nearly every single damn day.
Do you know why?
Do you know why?
…It’s because I am a dark-skinned Black Man…and people believe I am dangerous.
This is how I begin my day.
Nearly every day.
This is my story.”
This is an example of the hidden injustice and danger of the singular story.
And while the Zimmerman/Trayvon trial will need to be played out through our judicial system, this is the kind of thought and racialization (add gender and class) that needs to be carefully, courageously, and prayerfully examined in our own lives…
and however slowly but surely, need to be redeemed.
What does it mean to seek justice?
What does it mean to live justly?
What does it mean for justice be done to us?
What does it mean to be reconcilers?
What does it mean to be peacemakers?
In remembering his death, I don’t want to reduce it to a mere righteous self-portrait of ourselves wearing a hoodie…or myself wearing a hoodie. May we live out the call and commitment as doers of justice and ambassadors of reconciliation.