When I heard the news of the Zimmerman verdict, I was shaking with rage and hopelessness. I have trouble imagining a clearer case of murder than one man with a gun following a teenage boy at night and ultimately killing him. We can't know what really happened in the court room, nor can we really know what happened on the street that night. The court has ruled. As much as we may want to argue with the verdict, that road leads nowhere, and our opinion doesn't matter. But we can wake up to the flaws in the system -- and work to do something about it.
In our national dialogue we pretend-argue that something is or isn't racist when we all really know what's going on. Statistics clearly show that people who look a certain way (who don't look white) are treated differently for employment, housing, prison-sentencing and it goes on and on. We can pretend-argue about it so long that we don't do enough to change it. There has been so much attention to the argument of whether this was an instance of racism, or simply media hype -- as if questioning the existence of racism is a legitimate argument. As a white man, I can walk in circles foolishly arguing whether race is a factor for hate and harm in our country, or I can simply pay attention to the world around me.
As a citizen, I need to more deeply recognize that these horrors are not someone else's problem. As a human being, I need to see that dead teen-aged boy as my son, too. As a religious person, I need to ask what systems in place contribute to the likelihood of future horrors -- and not to worship the privilege that keeps some up and others down. The "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida that allows assailants to claim self-defense when their own violent attack leads to their own injury from another person who was merely defending themselves against their assault. You can learn more about political efforts to change the system of gun violence at the Brady Campaign. The "Stop and Frisk" policies in NYC that essentially give up our rights against "unreasonable search." You can learn more about policy change efforts around the Community Safety Act here.
Or ludicrous practices that reflect white male privilege. A Texas Capitol that is terrified of women with tampons but anyone can walk in with a concealed gun. Or the knee-jerk response from Southern states after the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act. If racism were dead in those states, legislators ought not to be so ready to redraw gerrymandered lines to disenfranchise voters of color. We can pretend-argue they're not doing it for that reason, but I've yet to hear any compelling other purpose.
As a gay man, I need to see the death of Trayvon Martin as a threat to myself. I need to not forget how many of my fellow LGBT youth continue to be assaulted and murdered for no reason other than hate and ignorance. Just because Trayvon was not LGBT, doesn't mean it's not an LGBT issue. All of these matters are directly connected to one another. All go hand in hand. From a religious perspective, all our spirits are diminished so long as we seek to diminish another and so long as we fail to stop the diminishment of another.
We can watch people pretend-argue that everything is really fine and fair despite all the facts to the contrary. We can spin our wheels and join that debate. Or we can put our spirit into collaborating with all the people who are victimized by that worldview and effect change. Today, I'm done with arguing with insincere people.