Monthly Archives: March 2012

Standing Our Ground

“Standing our ground.”  This phrase keeps popping into my consciousness as I continue to react to the Trayvon Martin tragedy.  Certainly, his murder has captured the nation’s attention and many people are attempting to confront this injustice through protest and social media movements.  It would be worse, so much worse, if our country was disinterested as it has been so many times before.  At least in this one instance (because violence directed towards people of color is NOT new), people are taking notice, or I should say, white people are taking notice, including myself.

As a pastor, I am struggling with how to respond this week.  Somehow organizing a protest here in Ann Arbor doesn’t seem quite right, at least not for a community of faith.  There are plenty of people protesting, there are plenty of people on the news and on facebook trying to speak truth to power.  I loved reading about the Million Hoodies March yesterday, and wished I had known to wear my hoodie to church last night as a sign of solidarity (even though it is in the 80’s here in Michigan!).  Protest is certainly part of our response, but I yearn for something deeper than chanting and waving signs, something that changes me for the better and for the long run.  Something that doesn’t let me and other white people move back into our blissful ignorance of the violent reality of racism in the USA, even in 2012.

I was and am moved by the picture on msnbc.com of Trayvon’s parents being prayed over in New York City.  I was also struck with how few white hands are being laid on them.   When I saw this last night, I wanted to make that picture different, right.  I wished I was there, I wished I could reach through the computer screen and lay my hands on their shoulders, to have white hands intertwined with black hands.  Today, I am wishing I could reach out into the communities of color here in Washtenaw County to show my love and support, to confess my own sin of racism, and to celebrate and to learn from the strength of the people in these communities.  In my mind, I keep trying to find the perfect way, a perfect place for a silent vigil, a perfect time to mobilize my new congregation into something powerful.  If I could just come up with a creative idea…to show how to “stand our ground” for justice and equality.

“Standing our ground.”  I think I am slowly coming to realize that “standing our ground” for justice for me today is remaining here in this confusion, in this discomfort, in this place where I can’t do anything but write this blog entry.  I can’t fix anything right now, I can’t swoop in and make things better, I can’t change the course of history.  But I can be witness to Trayvon and to his parents.  I can open my heart wide enough to be changed, truly changed, by his story.  I can can continue to listen, and learn, and remember God’s special love for the marginalized, the oppressed.

The question is:  what will “standing our ground” for God’s justice mean tomorrow?  And the next day?  Next week?  Next year?   Or a more pressing question, the next news cycle?

Running for his life….

We have been hearing a lot this week about “Stand Your Ground” laws as it pertains to George Zimmerman and his shooting of unarmed 17 year old Trayvon Martin.  Zimmerman claims self defense even though there is mounting evidence that he actively pursued Trayvon and there still has been no arrest.  We hear a lot of support for “Standing One’s Ground” laws that are all over the country.  We hear about the “right to defend oneself” under the guise of the 2nd Amendment.  But I can’t get the image of that poor child, walking home with a bag of Skittles and flirting with his girlfriend on the phone, suddenly “running for his life” and pleading for someone to help him.  The 911 tapes are chilling–they are bone chilling.  One has Zimmerman calmly speaking to the dispatcher when he begins to follow Trayvon and then the dispatcher warns him not to follow the “suspicious” (read: black) individual.  The other one is a neighbor who is hiding upstairs because she is terrified by the shrieks for help (which are audible on the tape), the single gunshot and then the silence, the deadly silence.  That poor child, lying there alone and dying while people cowered in their apartments in fear.  Trayvon–the latest of the thousands over hundreds of years who have “run for their lives.”  Because they are not white.  Sadly, Trayvon Martin won’t be the “last.”

I am a educated, white, middle class woman.  Walking down the street, I have never been seen as “suspicious.”  Nobody has ever called 911 because they thought I was up to no good.  I have never been the target of the “Stand Your Ground” laws–I do not represent the images in people’s heads when they talk about “the right to defend themselves” with deadly force.  I move through this world with a freedom that Trayvon never experienced, but a freedom he deserved solely for being a beloved Child of God.  This freedom is what God desires for all of God’s children.  I believe God aches for these lost ones, the ones who fall because of hatred and systemic racism.  

I don’t know about you, but I ache for Trayvon and for the thousands of other unnamed black men and women who have run for their lives–run from slave traders, run from slave owners, run from lynch mobs, run from vigilantes, run from police with batons and water hoses.  I thank God for all the thousands who courageously “Stood Their Ground” for justice and fairness and freedom, even when it cost them their lives.

So how do we, this day, “Stand Our Ground” against the violence directed towards people of color?  How do we embody the deep and abiding love that God has for all citizens of this world, for each and every child whom God claims as “beloved?” How do we begin to deconstruct the systems of our society that has institutionalized racism, sexism, heterosexism?  

Well, I believe we begin by grieving together, and praying together, and crying together.  We witness to the preciousness of Trayvon’s life.  We turn to God’s word again as a reminder of God’s call to justice.  We acknowledge fearlessly that we haven’t always lived into this call for justice. 

It is time to “Stand Our Ground” and remember that it is Holy Ground. 

Praying for God’s peace,
Pastor Deb