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The Tragedy of Trayvon


Marches and rallies have been organized. Campaigns have raised money. Hooded sweatshirts have been worn. Facebook statuses have been updated. And celebrities, athletes, and politicians (including our very own president) have all weighed in. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a theory.

Whichever side of the fence you find yourself on in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, one thing is certain, a tragedy occurred that night in Sanford, Florida. A tragedy that has unleashed nationwide protest and ushered in heated debates and raging discourse. Debates and discourse that seem to be more dedicated to creating division, than they do in providing us all with much needed direction. A type of direction that leads us closer to healing and harmony instead of hatred and hostility.

Whether you are willing to admit it or not, tensions are high, fingers are pointing, and racial divides are widening. All for the apparent search for justice.

Really? Justice, huh? Do we even know what justice lived out loud really looks like? If we do, do our daily actions reflect a deep connection to the concept? Are our innermost intentions and motives governed by the same humility and opposition to hatred that was modeled by courageous men and women who preceded us, and really got this idea of justice at their core? Men and women like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Frederick Douglass, and Nelson Mandela.

Bottom-line friends is that we are divided as a nation. Still. If you don’t believe that, then just listen to this statistic. According to a Reuters poll conducted this week, 91% of black Americans believed the shooting of Trayvon Martin was unjustified while only 35% of whites believed it was. Pollster Chris Jackson said, “This incident is one of the clearest splits we’ve seen between blacks and whites.”

And it’s all George Zimmerman’s fault, right? Of course not! We were divided long before this devastating incident. Its just always been more comfortable to keep our true, deep-rooted feelings to ourselves.

Now let me be very clear, this is much more than a black and white issue. This is an issue that has to do with the brokenness in humanity. We are a broken people. Wherever you look there is conflict, lack of resolution, wars, and civil unrest. Israelis and Palestinians. Muslims and Christians. Cubans and Castro. And the list goes on.

The main point here is not determining whether George Zimmerman reacted in self-defense or if his actions were racially motivated.  The main point here is finding balance in our search for justice.

Think about this. We remain in quicksand when we don hoods, yet disrespect our fellow brother. We fail when we champion causes solely for the purposes of being seen, yet fail to possess enough character to love in private. We go backwards when we think we’ve figured everyone else out, yet are blind to the fact that we have yet to figure our own selves out.

Segregation, injustice, inequality, prejudice, discrimination, dehumanization, disenfranchisement, and narrow-mindedness still exist. It pains me to admit that, but it does. It may lie below the surface, but it’s there. And it’s our responsibility to bring it to the surface and deal with it.

My main purpose and motivation in writing this is to place under a microscope what I believe to be a pervading misalignment of our beliefs and our actions. We say we love, yet are so quick to leave behind those who are different from us. We say we are a compassionate people, yet we cast out those who don’t believe what we believe or look how we look. We sing hymns on Sunday, yet spew venom Monday thru Saturday. We update our Twitter feeds with Bible verses, yet interact with others as if they are somehow below us when their opinion doesn’t quite match up to ours. We quote heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday, yet on every other day of the year manage to walk a walk that is against everything he truly stood for.

So what’s the root cause of this paradoxical living? Answer. Self-promoting, pious, legalistic, parent-taught, close-minded, hate-filled, and dignity-stealing mentalities. Mentalities that include: us versus them, me against the world, your opinion is garbage while mine is truth, I’m right which obviously make you wrong, and I get it and clearly you never will. These mindsets are killing us and setting us up to continue a pattern that is not only destructive in nature but also generational.

The cause is clear and the solutions are even clearer. We need healing. We need to have the courage to address our conscious and unconscious biases. We need to hold each other accountable. We need to talk less and say more. We need to love the unlovable. We need reconciliation. We need to become catalysts of change, heroes of harmony, leaders of love, and proponents of peace. We need to be challenged by the words from the Preamble to our very own United States Constitution, which charges us to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and promote the general welfare. We need to repair conflict with care and compassion and fix separation with service and sacrifice.

When I think of an example of what’s required for love to become our national treasure, I think back 20 years ago to the worst thing I personally have ever seen. It was when Reginald Denny was pulled from his truck on the corner of Florence Avenue and Normandie during the L.A. riots of 1992. Men beat him, kicked him, hit him in the head with a hammer, spit on him, robbed him, laughed at him, and threw a concrete slab at his head rendering him unconscious. As LAPD stood by in the vicinity and did nothing, love happened to be watching his television. Love, as a fellow truck driver, got in his car and came to the aid of Mr. Denny. Love shielded Mr. Denny from his attackers and from the hatred that encircled him. Love put Mr. Denny back in his own truck and drove him to the hospital. Love’s name that day was Bobby Green. A black man that saw injustice being done to a fellow white trucker and responded. I sit here barely able to keep myself together as I think of the courage and valor of that man on that day. Bobby Green is a hero.

We too can be heroes. But truth is a prerequisite. It’s a must. It’s necessary in order to foster unity, oneness, and reveal our true selves.

May our hearts, minds, and souls be transformed by the power of love.

“…Indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

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