Like many, the shooting of Trayvon Martin has had my attention and has raised a lot of questions. If you aren’t familiar with the case, its details, and the issues it raises, you need to take some time and familiarize yourself with it.
The purpose of this post isn’t to give my two cents on the shooting. (Though I think there needs to be a thorough investigation of the incident and the police’s procedures following it. And I do think that the Florida self-defense law probably needs to be re-visited.) I don’t have the training and I’m not in a position to address those issues with any kind of expertise.
But in response to what happened in Florida, Frances Cudjoe Waters, wrote an article entitled “Walking While Black”. What she wrote broke my heart. She starts off this way:
“I still remember the first time it happened. I was dropping off my 17-year-old cousin at a friend’s house in the wealthy, white Massachusetts suburb in which I lived and where my father is still a professor. We knocked on the wrong door. Minutes later, I was pulled over by the police. Slight, young and scared, I was interrogated about my activities, whether I was delivering drugs and what I was up to.
I remembered. My parents had sat me down months before when I got my license.
It doesn’t matter that you’re female. It doesn’t matter that you’re an honors student. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never been in trouble a day in your life. It doesn’t matter that you are leaving to start attending Stanford this fall. When most of these police officers see you, all they will see is a young black girl and that can be dangerous. So, when you are harassed — and you will be — try to stay calm. Try not to be afraid, and call us as soon as you can.
A black teenager’s rite of passage.”
As I read her article, I started thinking of friends of mine from around the country. Good friends. More than I can attempt to name here. Men and women I trust and respect. Men and women of color.
And I wondered if this has been their experience. The experience of their children. My guess is that for many of them, it has been.
And that saddens me. It saddens me that in 2012, in a nation built on the premise that “all men are created equal”, people still face prejudice, suspicion, and stereotyping based on the color of their skin. That they aren’t even given the chance to demonstrate the strength of their character because of the blindness of others.
If any of my friends, or others of color, read this: I ask for your forgiveness. Forgiveness on behalf of those of us in the majority that have failed to live and love as Christ commanded. And forgiveness personally if I have ever treated you in a way that reflected less than love and respect, that was less than what Jesus would have wanted.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35