“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?