Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

ZimmermanTrialThere has been no shortage of opinions offered around the U.S. and beyond following the “not guilty” verdict of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin.  I don’t think the world needs any more opinions on the matter of his guilt or innocence, including my own.  The only truly educated opinions that matter come from those who were present in that courtroom and who have all of the information that is available, even if it is incomplete information.  Cries of guilt or innocence from others are based on incomplete information and factors such as emotions, histories and biases that presuppose much but prove nothing.

Having had some time to ponder the verdict, to watch reactions, and to read at least a few thoughtful, meaningful responses, I offer my response here:

So what are you going to do about it?  

I don’t mean that flippantly because this is nothing to take lightly.  I literally mean what actions are you going to take in response to what just unfolded before the nation and the world in this trial?  What are you going to do different this week than you might have done if the verdict had gone another way?  Are you going to be different on the inside because of this and, if so, what will that look like on the outside to others?

As I think about responses to the verdict from those in different roles and from different perspectives, I wonder about the following:

As a parent and grandparent, what will I teach my children and grandchildren about justice, about prejudice, about self-defense, and about how to answer the question “Who is my neighbor?”  Will my heart ache when I imagine the pain of parents who lost a child so senselessly and needlessly, and will I work to help prevent others from experiencing that same fate?

As a white man, will I try to understand the reaction of minorities who see all too many verdicts go against them (although in this case both parties involved were minorities)?

As a citizen, will I take action to improve laws that I believe to be inadequate?  Will I do my part to place in office those who can help make positive change?  Will I give of my time, energy and resources to change a justice system that too often allows injustice?  Will I get involved in my neighborhood watch program and work to make it function legally and reasonably?

As a Christian, will I mourn with those who mourn?  Will I pray not just for those who like me and are like me, but for those with whom I share little in common – even my enemies?  Will I represent Christ well in my compassion for all involved and in my desire for reconciliation between individuals, between races, and between people and God?  Will I step up my efforts at what I believe in my heart this world needs more than anything else, as the following tweet from Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research reminded me Sunday morning?

EdStetzerTweet

What will I do different as a result of this verdict?  What will you do?  If all we plan is to spout our opinions and yell down those with whom we disagree, then we have missed the critical teachable moment in the midst of a tragedy.  We will miss the great opportunity to at least partly redeem a broken situation.  We will miss the call to mold the future for the better.

I know we all have our opinions of guilt or innocence.  I have mine.  But opinions aren’t what the world needs right now.  We need thoughtful, purposeful, reasoned action that makes a difference for this and future generations.

So What Are You Going to Do About It?

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For some additional recommended reading related to the Zimmerman verdict, see:

Paula DeenHas there been a single major newscast in the past week that did not talk about the current Paula Deen controversy?  Not that I can recall.

For those of you living under a rock, she has been in the news for revealing in a deposition that she used a racial slur – the so-called “N-word” – 30 years ago while being robbed with a gun at her head.  Since that revelation, she has lost her television show, many corporate sponsorships, the right to continue with her buffets in numerous casinos, the right to sell her branded products in several major retail stores, and I’m sure others will jump on the train in the days to come.

Enough, already!

Use of racial slurs is, of course, wrong and nobody can justify using them today.  Please understand, though, that to ask any 66-year-old woman such as Deen who was raised in a very different culture decades ago if she has ever used a racial slur is a ridiculously unfair question.  I’d like to make a note of everyone who is criticizing her for something done 30 years ago so I can go to those holier-than-thou critics when they are 66 and ask if they have ever done something, especially something that was condoned in the culture in which they were raised.  Nobody on the face of the earth could stand up to such scrutiny.  No one should be held to a standard of perfection for decades (or for days, for that matter) – nobody!  Not a single person reading this post could withstand that level of examination.  I know I couldn’t – not by a long shot.  Does that mean I’m a horrible person unworthy of carrying out my profession?  No, and neither does it mean that with Deen.

One of the frustrations with this selective crucifixion of Deen is how none of her critics are directing the same outrage at unlimited, regular use of the word in rap and hip-hop music.  What’s the difference?  If the word is offensive and unacceptable, then that standard applies to all, not just to certain people you’re inclined to stereotype and crucify while giving others a pass.  We have a word for that – hypocrisy.

A biblical story comes to mind – the one where some holier-than-thou types brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery.  She wasn’t caught 30 years prior – this was fresh news.  There was no doubt of her guilt.  Nobody condoned the behavior.  But how did Jesus respond?  To the accusers, He said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).  Eventually, the accusers so eager to stone the woman walked away one by one, starting with the oldest.  The oldest were well aware of the sin in their past.  The younger ones took a little longer to realize they were guilty in their own ways.

Jesus didn’t excuse the woman’s behavior, either.  He told her plainly, “go and sin no more.”  So he spoke equally to all in the incident, clearly telling the guilty party to stop the behavior while also telling others to cease their unwarranted self-righteous condemnation.  That’s a message we need to hear again in this Deen controversy.

Deen has apologized and I have no reason to suspect that the apology is anything but completely genuine.  I accept her apology at face value and think it’s time to put it behind us.

Hypocrisy is an ugly thing.  We cannot hold people to a standard of perfection that we do not assume for ourselves, crucifying people because at some point in their decades of life they did something wrong or stupid.  Culture changes.  People change.  We learn, grow, and move on.  There are too many people in glass houses throwing stones right now and I’m tired of it.

Forgive and move on. You may well need that same forgiveness some day.

[Edited on 6/29/2013 to include the following addition: Several have rightly pointed out that the legal issues currently confronting Deen are not from what was said 30 years ago, but due to far more recent accusations.  Fair enough.  We’ll let that play out in the courts to see where the truth lies.  If a consistent pattern of racist or illegal behavior is proven, Deen deserves the legal consequences.  My beef as expressed in the above post is that in the majority of newscasts I have heard, the bulk of the media attention has been given to the fact that she admitted to “ever” using a racial slur.  That question and the self-righteous, hypocritical  response to her answer are where I take issue.

For a similar perspective, see http://johndobbs.com/2013/06/27/hey-paula/]