"He killed my son."
Words no father should ever utter, and yet that these words hang in the atmosphere over Sanford, Fla., like humidity on a dank summer's eve; like an echo unanswered, demanding recompense.
Tracey Martin's outcry at the killing of his 17-year-old son, Trayvon, armed only with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of Arizona Tea -- cut down in the prime of life while walking to a friend's house -- has set off a firestorm of protests.
I join my voice to the growing list of "The Outraged."
How can a father reconcile such an inexplicable act? How can he deal with such palpable grief? As a father and grandfather myself, I know that injustice is not something you necessarily define for your offspring. It is something you feel viscerally, share experientially and recognize when you see it. It alarms the senses, raises the hair on the back of one's neck, and brings to the forefront of memory, tales of atrocities past, handed down generation to generation like fine linen.
The Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed all citizens equal protection under the law, and yet in this moment we are aggrieved over such a misappropriation of the very justice that so many gave their lives to achieve.
It is evolving into a case of two justices: separate and, like Jim Crow laws, far from equal.
From the apparent racial profiling, overt violation of neighborhood watch protocols and real-time police directives, to accusations of tampered evidence, to the failure to undertake reasonable measures afforded by the law, I count a multitude glaring discrepancies. How did "The System" fail to ensure that this boy's life was not inconsequential?
As a citizen, I understand that no case is all black or all white, despite appearances to the contrary. I realize that justice is fraught with nuances, not the very least of which is Florida's "stand your ground" law, which was designed to protect threatened parties, and in all irony of all ironies appears to be the very thing keeping the instigator out of prison, in complete contrast to the spirit of the controversial pro-gun law.
How can we trust the law when it fails to provide minimal protection for the victim and allows a killer to walk freely, virtually unexamined by police at the time of the crime or since?
To quote the accepted legal maxim, "Justice delayed is justice denied."
What's not so complicated is that the history of misconduct by the local police and a corresponding mistrust by the community which made an immediate call for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to step in to underscore their knowing apprehension that the law would not protect them.
As a pastor, I am not unfamiliar with evil. It is pre-existent and pervasive in our world. It is defined as "immoral and injurious, characterized by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous," words that also describe this case.
Now is the time where mere words fail if not accompanied by deliberate action.
It is the time to raise the standards of scrutiny and call in the Stanford Police into account. We must move beyond the confines of state law and the ongoing perversions of justice.
The Department of Justice must be brought in to ensure that this atrocity is righted and that a killer is made to pay for the unrighteous taking of another human life and, so far, without retribution.
We must encourage all who claim to value human life to stand up for this young man so his voice is not muted in the earth. He is a symbol for those who might for one moment think that the work of civil rights was done in 1964. Think again. Desperate times call for decisive action.
This is not a wolf cry.
To me, this looks like a hate crime, pure and simple, informed by the deep-seated and unchallenged racial prejudices incubated in the ignorance of a man who took his role of protector far too seriously and further than it was ever intended or needed to go. He is now sustained by a "System" that were it not for the fact of its absolute absurdity which drew international media attention in the first place, would have gone unmarked, unnoticed and therefore unchallenged.
As a father, grandfather, citizen-pastor, I know that we can't afford to act as if this were an isolated case and allow our young men to be killed for the color of their skin rather than be praised for the content of their character.
We must bring a righteous legal and satisfactory moral conclusion to this atrocious miscarriage of justice and violation of all reasonable consciousness.