“Unfortunate” doesn’t begin to describe Trayvon’s death. Reportedly, Zimmerman did something even he regrets because his mind was in the wrong place. He should be held responsible. But haven’t we all done something similar?
How do we define “racism”? If we refer to the antiquated, overt prejudices of the South, drenched in a history of slavery and the passive superiority that Martin Luther King Jr. rebuked in his prison letter to the White American Church… well… then Zimmerman wasn’t racist. But how can that be?
From the 911 manuscript…
Dispatcher: Are you following him?
Dispatcher: Ok, we don’t need you to do that.
…and Trayvon ends up dead. If you are being followed, the follower is obviously not “standing”. The martyr stood his own ground. Let’s all stand our ground for Trayvon.
…but stand against what?
A few days ago, President Obama asked the nation to reflect on why this sort of thing could happen.
Zimmerman shouldn’t have been pursuing someone who was walking away, even if he thought that person was suspicious. “Pursuit” is police work, not neighborhood watch work, nor is it covered by “Stand Your Ground”. There was no sign of old Southern American racism in Zimmerman. I believe he genuinely feels bad. I believe Zimmerman genuinely wanted to “protect” the neighborhood. It seems like Zimmerman was chasing a ghost that only existed in his mind… and on February 26, that ghost just might have looked like a young, Black high school student in Sanford, Florida.
The root of the crime here was a failure to talk to each other. If we allow ourselves to sit in our bubbles and worry about other people, one day, we just might get the wrong guy.
If, in fact, Zimmerman pulled the trigger, he should should be found guilty. But this is not a “hate” crime—it’s an “ignorant” crime. In the Old Testament, God said that His people perish for lack of knowledge and knowledge is something they refused to seek. Zimmerman may be sad for what he did, but not as sad as Trayvon’s mother.
How many times do we do injustice because of what we “think” we know? This is not overt prejudice—it’s ignorant prejudice… where the criminal, also, becomes one of the many victims of his own ignorance. This is our racism problem in American society today.
The only way to overcome our ignorance is to fulfill MLK’s dream: that all God’s children would join hands and sing the old Negro spiritual. If you don’t talk to people, you just might not know who your real friends are. Maybe Zimmerman and Trayvon could have been friends. Will the rest of us learn before it’s too late?