I wasn’t surprised by the verdict; it highlights how our legal system makes the lives of young black men expendable. The simple truth is Martin didn’t deserve what happened to him. It doesn’t matter how he was walking, what he was saying, or whether or not he was a thug. He didn’t deserve to die.
So Zimmerman got a trial and was acquitted. Bless him. It may be that the verdict was legally correct; and I’m inclined to let a few guilty people go to protect the innocent. What angers me is that Martin was executed without one. Zimmerman received a privilege that most black men can’t imagine: a second chance. For in our system, plenty of innocent must plead guilty if only to escape prison culture for a time.
What strikes me as bizarre is the the idea that “standing your ground” could be, in any way, a reasonable course of action to protect oneself. Why do we think that the worst will necessarily happen to us? Have we watched too many movies? Do we really think of other people as so evil that nothing would inhibit them from murdering us? It’s a worldview that does not reflect the gospel challenge.
Unlike Zimmerman, we’re not supposed to look for a fight. Pride and honor be damned, we are inclined not to fight back.
Now, I imagine exceptions. Certainly in the end we will all, in an imperfect world, make choices that do not satisfy the demands of the gospel. Some of us may be part of the state apparatus that that insists violence must be used to establish order. We may also defend other people who are being harmed. And I do not deny that some act of resistance may convince the perpetrator that violence is not worth the effort. This still does not justify proactive revenge. It requires us to take a risk that to assume we will not be harmed when we are confronted by the foreign, strange or extraordinary.
There’s a lot of room for us to behave between fleeing and fighting. But there are times, so to stop the dynamic that makes it easy to kill, we bear the cross. We don’t stand our ground. There is no honor lost in running, because for us, honor is irrelevant and unnecessary.
Is it the hard road? Yes. It’s the narrow gate.
“Stand Your Ground” is not only a conduit for the national sin of white supremacy, but makes violence a sacred space through the law. All of us who take the gospel seriously should be concerned. Our work, through our lives, is to show that violence is neither necessary, or holy. And as best we can, we reject the idea that the death of another person will save us.
That is what experiencing the cross implies– it happened once, for all time, so that we could see it need not happen again. How hard it is to see, even when again the cross stands before us. If we could only see.
One thought on “Trayvon Martin, Notes”
It occurs to me, at long last, upon reading your reflection that one of the problems with “Stand your ground” is the very word “your.” It appears that Zimmerman presumed that was his ground, not Martin’s. And the verdict gives credence to that interpretation. Another thing I hope we can bring to this conversation is our understanding that “the earth is the Lord’s.” It’s not just a question of violence, but a question of ownership. Are we willing to share the ground, or do we assume that some are more worthy than others to keep it for themselves?