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,