Skittles and Iced Tea
I have purposely waited to write my thoughts on the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial. It was tempting to jump into the fray of emotions I felt, and proclaim from social media everything I was feeling moment to moment. Instead I made a decision to sit in the emotion for a few hours. Just sit, and allow myself to really contemplate how I feel and what I think.
As much as I want to write a post that is theologically deep or gives a great spin on the case that no one else has thought of, or analyzes the legal implications of the verdict, I am afraid I only have simple thoughts. These are thoughts that I own as an individual. This is not an attempt to speak on behalf of anyone other than myself. If you find something here that resonates, I will be grateful for our shared connection, but today I write mostly for me.
As hard as I tried, I just couldn't get myself to see Trayvon Martin's death in isolation. In my mind I can see slave ships unloading black bodies like cattle. I see families torn from one another on the auction block. I see the terrified faces of black men desperately trying to out run a lynch mob. I see burned bodies floating above dying campfires. I see the hatred of students screaming at Ruby Bridges, and I hear the shot that killed Medgar Evers in his driveway. The image of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin bleed into one face, one story. And as if these pictures of history aren't overwhelming enough, the faces of the men I love loom before me. If I could quantify the history of injustice in my own family, I wonder if the scales of justice would fall over. How many beatings? How many lynchings? How much police brutality? How many false accusations? How often has the fear of America overtaken justice in my own lineage? How many times did injustice crush the hearts and minds of the men who produced me? I probably don't want to know. But I wonder.
Though my heart is heavy, I am not oblivious to the fact that Trayvon is far from being the only little black boy to die at the hands of another over the last 18 months. I live in the city of Chicago, and here the murders of brown boys and girls are told on the news like baseball scores or box office numbers-- how high will it be this weekend? This acknowledgement offers me no comfort. I keep coming back to the question, "where am I supposed to raise a black boy?" If I cannot raise him in a community that looks like him, and if he cannot walk to the corner store in the "safe" neighborhood... where am I supposed to go? Where is the place in America where the dirt doesn't cry out for the blood of my future son? Perhaps this is one reason why I have not yet started to have children; my hope of a "safe neighborhood" continues to fade.
I tried really hard to use "Christianese" to relieve myself of these thoughts, "Surely God will protect MY son." "Well, I cant put my trust in the justice system; I can only put my trust in God." Or how about, "God will judge in the end." But none of these thoughts bring much in the way of peace. And why should it? After all, Trayvon's family is far from the first to lose a child. So where do I place my hope? It is only in believing that God doesn't just touch, but that He has felt and intimately understands the hurt of Trayvon's family and their deep sense of injustice. This sense of finding God, hearing God, reaching out to God and God reaching back happens in my lament, not in a hope for eternal retribution- I personally can't wait that long for healing.
So, to all those who are lamenting, you are not alone. I pray that God will indeed make Himself known to you and your family as you lament. May your sons purchase skittles and iced tea in the rain, and still come home. Amen.