Thursday, July 18, 2013

For My Dark-Skin Boys

What can I say that has not already been said? Countless numbers of my friends and colleagues have commented on the conclusion of George Zimmerman's trial. In the past, when national, political or social catastrophic events have occurred I have had a forum. I have been in the pulpit taking the word of God and trying to shine it on the situation of the day. No longer serving a parish, this time I had no such forum. So, I struggle to figure out what I would have said to my upper middle class predominately white congregation in the light of a not guilty verdict. I don't know, but I know now I have to write.
The text for the Sunday after the verdict was from Luke 10. It was the story of the Good Samaritan. We know the story so well; we have heard it over and over again. The lawyer wants to win an argument with Jesus or show that he is righteous before God, so he asks Jesus a question: “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus does what Jesus is prone to do, he answers the lawyer with his own questions “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He is talking to a lawyer, so of course this lawyer knows the law. He was trying to prove how smart he was.  We too know the reply; so say it with me …..”You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus affirms that the lawyer gets it right, but before I write about the next question the lawyer asks, I have a question of my own. Did George Zimmerman love himself?

Go with me for just one moment. There is something in my spirit that tells me that this neighborhood watch guy had no idea how to love himself. At least, he didn’t know how to love that part of himself that was a person of color. I have read articles and post that posit that this incidence, this killing of a young black male couldn’t have been about race, because Zimmerman is Hispanic. Really? I ask. His mother is from Peru, but did he embrace his Hispanic-ness? his brownness? Could he laugh, talk, dance, relate as a Latino? I don’t know. I do know he had a hard time loving his neighbor and this makes me think he doesn’t love himself. Someone who needs to carry a gun....someone who was always calling to report when someone else was doing wrong -- Was he trying to prove he was better, or smarter or show himself righteous? Someone who has taken it on himself to be the guardian of streets in a non-official capacity, seems to me is trying to find self-esteem in these endeavors, a place to belong, authority outside of himself. Seems to me he was looking for affirmation, attention possibly love.
The lawyer asks "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus tells him a story that contains violence, that speaks of difference, that reveals enemies. This story tells how one man responds when their is a stranger, an enemy someone he should despise is in his neighborhood. So let me talk a little about neighborhoods for a moment.
I have also heard the question: "what is the black community so upset about when so many young black men kill each other right in their own neighborhoods?" I now live in Chicago and since I moved here in November, I cannot count the times I have heard of another shooting on the Southside of the city. Little dark-skin boys are being killed by little dark-skin boys. This is absolutely horrific. I cannot fully answer those who ask such a question. Yet, I do have a hypothesis. If the only thing you heard from society, on television, in the media, if the culture you grow up in has no respect for and does not love you, it is hard for you to love yourself. So, you act out because of oppression, systemic racism, lack of economic opportunity, poor educational systems as if you hate yourself by exhibiting power over those who look like you. I would say little dark-skin boys kill other little dark-skin boys in the broader context because they have a hard time loving themselves. You see over and over again in this society they are told they are worthless…….and so they become worthless.
Many will now point out that there are many successful dark-skin men and I would say yes, of course. Perhaps, these are some of those who have learned to love themselves. I know my hypothesis sounds simplistic, but it is so complicated. I don't know how to instill love in those who see themselves as unloved. I further believe, until we figure this out, until we as a country can love and embrace them, little dark-skin boys will continue to be victims of violence. They will continue to kill and be killed trashing each other, their neighborhoods and live in fear of walking in other neighborhoods.
There is no reason that Trayvon Martin should have felt that he didn’t belong in that neighborhood. His father lived there. I wonder if the man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho thought he was in a place that he didn't belong. The religious folk obviously thought he didn't belong and  wasn't worth their help because they passed on the other side. It wasn't until the person most despised, a Samaritan, stopped did this injured man find help. When, where and how will our society be helped? When will little dark skin boys be deemed worthy of our patience, compassion, and kindness (we have to get there before we can get to love)?
The Sunday morning after the verdict I sat and read posts on facebook and I cried; I shed tears for all the dark skin men in my life. I cried for my son, my nephew, my cousins and their sons. I sobbed when I thought of my grandsons Jawon and Kerry. I want them to know they are loved. I want them to know they are made in the image of God and God loves them. I want them and all little dark skin boys and girls to feel this love, to know this love. I want them to walk in this world as though they love themselves and others. Now, I can’t guarantee that those they encounter will walk in the same way. I cannot guarantee that they will be safe and that breaks my heart. Yet, I want them to live in love and to love their neighbor.

I am so sorry, so sad, so f'ing angry that George Zimmerman did not know what it meant to love himself or his neighbor. I am so sorry that he could not identify himself in another man of color. I feel a mixture of anger, disgust and pity for him. But I am going to stop wasting my time thinking about him.
I wonder out loud: how do we keep this from happening again? What can be done to change the law and change attitudes? How do we in this country act, behave, be neighbors to one another black, white, yellow and brown? How do we love self and other? That is what Jesus calls us to do.
Jesus asked the lawyer, "Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" The lawyer answered, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus doesn't simply say to him that he has the right answer. There is no pat on the back or prize. Jesus does not care that he is smart or strong or that he has authority. Out of love Jesus issues a simple statement: "Go and do likewise."
Might we show each other a little mercy, a little kindness, a little love!

Just rambling


  1. This is good reflection, Andrea. It wasn't easy hearing the verdict and having preach that text a few hours later. Although it was a good text to help think about loving neighbors and loving God and loving self and hating. Good questions to ponder and still very painful to think about Trayvon and George and our sons and grandsons and even their moms and the churches in communities where killing is so common. Jersey City is in a siege of violent killing these past few months. My granddaughter ran away from her neighborhood (Camden) on that same Saturday night, the same night Zimmerman was acquitted. We didn't know where she was for a couple of days. She is safe now. We love our brown children who live tragic lives and die tragic deaths.

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