Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Worth Reading Wednesday: On the Zimmerman trial, Trayvon Martin, and Race

I try not to write about topics that I know next to nothing about, and because there's a lot I still have to learn about race relations in the USA and because I didn't closely follow the trial, I have compiled a list of the following posts/articles I have read and found to be informative in various ways.  If you've read something good, add a link in the comments!

Privilege Says by Christena Cleveland
Privilege says the world’s problems would be solved if everybody were just like me.  Privilege says I’ll only listen to oppressed voices if they communicate in a way that’s easy for me to understand.
Based on my conversations with both blacks and whites, I’ve noticed a stark contrast in how the different groups tend to perceive these incidents. Blacks often perceive them as outrageously unjust, oppressive, critically important, and indicative of deep-rooted racial injustices in American society. On the other hand whites often perceive these incidents as relatively less important, as isolated events that aren’t necessarily related to larger societal issues, and/or the result of blacks engaging in “race-baiting” or “playing the race card.”
The Criminal Justice system is not good at moral evaluation. This piece by Andrew Cohen from today’s Atlantic makes the case brilliantly. When one considers the structure of the adversarial system, the limitations on evidence, and the difficulty of demonstrating clear intent on the part of the accused, it’s hard to make a clear case. Restorative Justice advocates like Howard Zehr observe that the victim (in this case Martin’s family) has little role in the criminal justice process. Their needs are irrelevant to the back-and-forth of the two teams of advocates (the defendant is also a curious bystander encouraged to show no reaction at all during months of trial). Victimizing the victim is a legitimate defense strategy used when the goal is to introduce reasonable doubt.

Unsafe in black and white America by Morgan Guyton
The third verse of “Sweet Home” always made me feel a little uncomfortable: “In Birmingham they love the governor / Now we all did what we could do.” What is that supposed to mean? Governor George Wallace? The one who stood up for segregation? What does it mean to say “we all did what we could do”? Were you part of the mob keeping the black kids out of the University of Alabama? How could a black person not feel unsafe hearing the words to that song with some understanding of their context?

A Humble Suggestions on How Not to Shoot Our Neighbors by Ed Cyzewski
When I prepared to move out of the area and the prison was slated to close, I should have been praying for Frank since he didn’t know where he’d end up, but he offered to pray for me first.
I’ll be the first person to tell you that my years of prison ministry didn’t correct all of my mistakes and misconceptions about people.

The Race Card of the Early Christians--What They Can Teach Us Today by Frank Viola and Derwin Gray
The church of Jesus Christ was a classless society. It’s members didn’t regard social status, color, or position. For them, there was no Jew or Greek in the body of Christ. There was no slave or free. There was no rich or poor. 

Woe to Those Who Make Unjust Laws by Sharon Hodde Miller
Ever since Trayvon Martin was killed, I have listened to my African American friends share similar stories. What I have learned is that my black brothers and sisters are experiencing America much differently than I am. On a daily basis, Americans of color witness the fear and prejudice that continues to attach itself to race. Whether it is overt racism, or subtler looks of suspicion and distrust, my African American friends are experiencing our society in a fundamentally different way.

A Look at the Outspoken Christian Faith of Trayvon Martin's Mother
On the day Zimmerman was found not guilty, she tweeted, “Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control.”
No matter what your opinions are about the jury’s verdict, George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin, the public faith of mother a who has lost her teenage son in a tragic shooting offers an example that speaks louder than debates about gun control, politics or the legal system. Her second to last tweet, the morning before the verdict was announced, read, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” …
Stand Your Ground by Jamie Calloway-Hanauer
While the NRA may believe that Holder “fails to understand” the fundamental human right to defend against an attacker, the NRA’s statement fails to recognize the Christian principle of turning the other check and responding non-violently, even in the face of violence. Of course, the NRA is not obligated to consider these principles. Christians, however, are.
Jesus taught us how to respond to violence. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
Juror B37 from the Zimmerman trial told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Martin was, in part, responsible for his own death. He should have, she said, run away. She also said she will be praying for those who can repeal the Florida stand your ground law that, in her words, required her to vote for Zimmerman’s acquittal. “My prayers are with all those who have the influence and power to modify the laws that left me with no verdict option other than ‘not guilty’ in order to remain within the instructions.”
In other words, both Zimmerman and Martin should have left the situation and avoided confrontation.

George Zimmerman and the Myth of Post-Racial America by Jonathan Merritt
Personally, I’m conflicted about the verdict. I don’t know if George Zimmerman was a racist. I don’t know if he started the fight or threw the first punch. I don’t know if this was a simple matter of self-defense or if the killer was made out to be the victim in an egregious failure of the justice system. Like everyone else, I only know what Zimmerman claims. The other side of the story is dead.
What I do know is that American’s reactions prove yet again that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to racial reconciliation.

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