Tag Archive: Trayvon Martin


whitep

i don’t know if this is the right place to begin this conversation on race, but it is a place and so will hopefully get the ball rolling and then we can see where it goes from there.

i think we would be foolish to believe that this conversation will be easy or comfortable all the way through – i am hoping we will be able to get to a place where people can be really honest [maybe in a raw and rough and edgy in-your-face kind of way] even if it does not feel good to hear and i am desperately hoping that we will really make an effort to listen. much grace and love and forgiveness and patience is going to be needed and i believe i know some really quality people who will be able to bring all of that to the table.

the place i have chosen to start this conversation [well, this is my second go at this, my first attempt a few months ago was an epic fail and so hopefully this question will go down better] is by asking the question to my friends who are not white, ‘What would you like your white friends to know/hear/be aware of?’ and i am hoping that a number of you will email me at brettfish@hotmail.com if you have something to say on this…

Sarona Reddy shares one Indian woman’s perspective on some aspects of race

Tsholofelo Mpuru speaks into the issue of white privilege and more

Mhlengi Mpungose shares one black man’s perspective on some of the fears and prejudices black people face

Hulisani Khorombi’s shares some of her story and specifically her take on the term ‘Coconut’

 Siki Dlanga speaks about the idea of ‘the better black’ 

Tshego Motiang shares some incredible insights about the need for open communication

Tasha Melissa Govender speaks about Indian accents and why you shouldn’t ask her to cook you some spicy food and more

Juliet Paulse talks about having her own racism exposed and pursuing deeper relationships with white people

the other day, in the midst of all my Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case posting i was alerted to this message on my good friend and former [and future] tag team buddy Sean Du Toit which simply read:

Everyone’s talking about Zimmerman and Martin, but what about Temar Boggs?

and of course i was all like ‘who the flip is Temar Boggs?’ so i did what all curious and brainy people do in the suchlike of that circumstance and went to go and ask Uncle Google…

i found out that Temar Boggs is a black kid.

a black kid on a bicycle.

with a gang of friends.

that should say it all, right? i can let my prejudice and racial profiling and media stereotypes fill the rest?

as MSNBC reports, ‘Temar Boggs is a 15-year-old student who lives in Lancaster, Pa. He loves playing sports, hanging out with friends, skateboarding and biking.’

oh, and then it continues, ‘Add “being a hero” to the list.’

a different article on the 41 Action News site fills in the other side of the story,

‘Five-year-old Jocelyn Rojas was playing in her front yard in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, when she vanished Thursday afternoon.

Authorities believe she was abducted by a man who lured her by offering ice cream.

For two hours, neighbors and police scoured the area and asked if anyone had seen her.’

Back to Temar in the first article:

‘Temar was having an average summer day on July 11: he helped a neighbor move her couch, and then settled in to hang out with some friends. But when Temar and friend Chris Garcia heard a five-year old girl had been abducted from their neighborhood, they jumped into action. After locating and chasing down the abductor, they rescued five-year old Jocelyn Rojas and were able to return her safe and sound to her parents.’

The Action News article describes the action:

‘The two teens chased the alleged kidnapper on their bikes for 15 heart-pounding minutes. The driver apparently knew he was being followed and gave up.

“He stopped at the end of the hill and let her out, and she ran to me and said that she needed her mom,” Temar said.’

This is all after they’d spent 30 to 45 minutes looking for her with a group of friends without being able to find anything and then they headed back to the general search area before spotting what they thought was a suspicious looking car.

You can read the rest of the mini interview they did with Temar here. The one question and answer that stood out strongly for me was this one:

‘How do you feel about having saved that girl?

It was just out of heart. It wasn’t to get attention or anything. It was just to help somebody in the community, help make sure another little life was okay and make sure her future could be possible.’


In the light of all the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman conversation this incident brought me great hope as well as great sadness [how come this wasn’t sprayed around all the newspapers and tv bulletins?] and it reminded me of a rather edgy statement joke one of my friends told me once:

Him: What do you call a black man who flies a plane?

Me: I don’t know. What do you call a black man who flies a plane?

Him: A pilot, you racist.

Edgy, I know. And maybe discomfort-enducing. As is this ongoing conversation whether it be focused on stories like Trayvon Martin or like this hero Temar Boggs [who i wish more people had heard more of]. Because the reality of this particular story is that Temar was a kid on a bike who put his hand up when the need presented itself. The fact that he’s a black kid shouldn’t be an issue, but in the climate where the media is so quick to bring race in when it’s a story with a negative twist, then maybe it needs to.

temar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I celebrate you Temar Boggs. I imagine you are probably not perfect and if we searched through your garbage we might be able to find some stories that would put your character to question in some way. I definitely know that is the case with me and mine. I imagine Jocelyn’s mom doesn’t care so much about that stuff right now though. And neither do i.

And thank you Sean.

 

‘It takes a big man to cry. It takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.’ [Jack Handey]

Wo. In the light of all the focus I have had on racism and this whole Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case the last few days, it was really unfair of my beautiful wife Valerie to send me this clip while I was sitting in Starbucks on my day off. It had me crying on the inside from about half way through and then the last line from the older girl just took me down completely…

[To see the other thoughts I’ve been having and sharing on recent events, here is the encouraging/challenging story of a South African white family]

[A summing up of some of my feelings and links to some of the best articles/thoughts linked to the trial the last few days]

[Some thoughts I had been having before this all blew up and some questions on how best to respond]

 

racisteggs

It is obvious there is a problem, that does not need to be proved [and if you still think it does, please head down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of ‘Racism for Dummies’] but the question facing us all [and more especially those of us on the privilege side of things as we have the power and resources to do so, but we had definitely be listening to and following the voices and lives of those on the prejudiced against side as this is their long walk to freedom] is what can we do about it? 

Interestingly enough, this is a blog post that has been waiting in my draft box to be written [enter the Trayvon/Zimmerman court ruling debacle] and so timely that I get to it now. I really hope this will spark a discussion because I am really wanting to figure out some answers here so if you have an opinion or even a thought towards one, please leave your comments at the end of this.

Thought number 1:

# I don’t know that white people are more racist than black people – I think we just profited from it. Black people had to be racist for free.

Right? Having come from an apartheid-past South Africa [legalised racism for the unaware] which still almost 20 years later is filled with the residue and leftovers of our racist past I know there is no easy fix. The excitement of watching sporting events such as the 1995 Rugby World cup victory [with Nelson Mandela playing the hugest part in wearing a Francois Pienaar jersey and presenting the cup] and the recent 2010 Soccer World cup [both hosted by South Africa] and their effect on bringing races and cultures together. Balanced negatively by the racist ideas and ideologies sadly still held by so many and the comments so dismissively thrown out that make an event ‘a racist event’ in seconds.

Conclusions that I have come to from living in South Africa:

Conclusion #1: Racist white people are racist

Conclusion #2: Racist black people are racist

…and so on.

So where does that leave me? What can I effectively do to make a difference?

Reality: I can’t do a whole lot about racist black people except shine – I have no voice there. Only my actions of demonstrating a different reality to the one they have known is likely to make any difference at all. The starting point here is not being listened to. For the most part this is going to have to come from other black people who will at least be able to get a word or example in before being dismissed.

When it comes to white racists, I do have more of a voice, but the reality is probably not to the extremes. Again I can model something different, something diverse and full of working unity, but those in whom it is entrenched are going to take a miracle to get through to [fortunately I do believe in One whose business is miracles].

I think where I have the largest impact potential is in the lives and minds and voices of those who embrace subtle racism [starting with me, always easier to notice this crap in other people – who are the friends of colour I am inviting to point out racist thoughts, ideas and attitudes in my own life? Good start!] So those who don’t think they are racist but say or do racist things in my presence, particularly those I have relationship with [whose lives I have perhaps earned the right to speak into]

An example of a subtle [in a South African context at least] – calling the 60 year old man who works in your garden ‘boy’ – maybe a way to figure out if it is racist or not is to reverse the races of the individuals in the example and so now you have a 20 or 30 year old black man calling a 60 year old white man “boy” – how does that go down for you?

Maybe it’s even taking it one step further – maybe a subtle is even making a 60 year old man work in your garden?

Not knowing the names of the children of the woman who has cleaned your house every week for the last two years? Not being invested in their education and wellbeing? [Surely if her family life is worse somehow as a result of her working for you there are some serious questions to consider?]

Perhaps it requires asking a higher grade of question with regards to the people who work for you, as evidenced in this Living Wage vs Minimjum Wage article on Twocents.co?

If your friends make a racist joke or comment in your presence, doing something about it or at the very least walking away to show you are not up for that. [Although I think it requires some form of direct confrontation, if maybe a private one later, for the thing to ever be actively dealt with]. Refusing to allow racism in any form to be allowed to safely pass by in your presence?

What else? Where do you see subtle ways in which racism is evidenced around you? What solutions would you recommend for those of us who are really wanting to be a part of the change but don’t really know where to start? 

In terms of people of other races who exhibit subtle racism, I think we have a part to play with them as well. That of friendship. It is a lot easier to be racist towards people you don’t know – towards “the other”, “them” or “those people” but once relationship has formed… once there is a name and family members and a shared story… well then suddenly it becomes a lot different. So I definitely think a huge key in this is for white people [in particular] to listen. To learn names and invite stories and really listen. Not to justify or to be defensive or talk about how we inherited this and it’s really not our crap. It’s the crap we are in and it is our reality and we have to own that. And start working together to move beyond that.

skeletons

 

Are you tired of hearing about “this whole Trayvon Martin case thing”? Well I’m pretty sure Trayvon’s family and friends are tired of him being dead, so maybe take a few minutes more on it…

‘A few of the boys were from Miami and one had gone to the same high school as Trayvon Martin. He began to cry, lamenting that Trayvon did not deserve to die. The other kids circled him, and as he opened up to express his fears, the other followed as well. And these kids, all potential Barack Obamas, and all potential Trayvon Martins, became very scared. As advisors, we felt powerless to protect them. ‘[Madison Gray, I am still Trayvon Martin]

I have spent the last few days reading a lot of different articles, stories and opinions related to the recent Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case that ended just recently following the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman on the night of February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida in the United States of America. Martin was a 17 year old African American high school student and George Zimmerman, a 28 year-old mixed-race Hispanic who was the neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community where Martin was temporarily staying.

This is unusual for me, to have such great interest in a news story, but this time around I have been realising the severe and deep-lasting implications of this incident and trial and the fact that George Zimmerman, who initiated the confrontation [despite apparently being advised not to], walked away free and completely unaccountable for the events that transpired. This is not an isolated event, but something that has profound impact and connection to probably every black person in America.

handsAnd therein lies a huge part of the problem. This is not, and should not be seen as ‘a problem for black people’ or even ‘a problem for people of colour’. There is no justice at all, until there is justice for all. The racism, stereotyping and racial profiling and related issues affect us all. What stood out for me strongly in one of the article I read was the idea that on the Sunday following the not guilty verdict, the case was at the heart of every single black church service in America, whereas it would more than likely get nothing more than a brief mention, if that, in the white churches.

This status I saw on my friend Ben McBride’s page sums a lot of it up for me: “I think we can lift up is the honest wrestling we all have at times, including me, with the tension of images of young men of color. I think it would be great to see how we start creating conversation with people, not about the case, but rather how we restore invisible humanity back to people with whom our society has aided our subconscious to have no emotional reaction to outside of fear.” [Michael McBride]

The strong likelihood in this story seems to be that if Trayvon Martin had been a white guy in a hoodie in that neighborhood that night, that none of this would have happened. And for all of the white people jumping in and making ridiculous statements about their frustration with “black people playing the race card” and sharing incidents and stories where black people were shown to be racist, I need to ask you to be quiet for a moment and take a step back from your defensiveness and just really try and listen for a moment and ask some honest questions. And be prepared for the answers you might receive.

Val and I heard the news of Zimmerman’s acquittal on the way back from Vegas where we had been for a week. In the ride home from the airport we heard from our friend who drove us home, who works with a number of young black people, some of the stories of how some of his young guys have been treated simply because of the colour of their skin. This story was not an unrelated incident. This is the truth for so many young black men and women in particular, but also for their friends and families and communities.

As my friend Dave Gale responded to the Facebook status above,  the answer might be in our willingness to understand and embrace people around us who are not ‘just like us’ – seeing diversity as a rich and empowering thing, not as a threat. As simple as engaging in conversation, offering basic hospitality. Stepping out of our comfort zones to do that?’

For those of you who are trying to make excuses of stick the blame on Trayvon Martin for what happened, it might be interesting to watch this short video clip and hear the ‘threee facts’ that the reporter presents at the end. For those of you who might be tempted to see this as an isolated incident or not fully grasp the ramifications on racial profiling and stereotypes, this ABC experiment on race dynamics might be helpful or mind-blowing.

But for those of you who ‘get’ this and who are looking for answers and trying to figure out the best way to respond, or just want to be inspired by some of the positive stories and messages that are out there regarding this case, I encourage you to spend a little more time on this.

Start with the story of Trayvon’s mother and her reaction to this during the trial when she publically held on to her faith as support and encouragement as she walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

Spend a few moments witnessing the encounter that a white pastor had the Sunday after the verdict when she felt God telling her that she had to go and visit the church of Trayvon Martin and his community.

Share in this ‘Lament from a White Father’ by head of Sojourners, Jim Wallis, as he shares a white father’s perspective on the event and gives a call to white people to ask black parents what they were talking about with their children this weekend:

‘Death is horrible enough. But systematic injustice — one that allows white boys to assume success, yet leads black boys to cower from the very institutions created to protect our own wellbeing — is a travesty. Listen to the stories from Saturday and Sunday nights, of 12-year-old black boys who asked to sleep in bed with their parents because they were afraid. If black youth in America can’t rely on the police, the law, or their own neighborhood for protection — where can they go?’

Spend a few minutes reading the account of Madison Gray who, ‘as the George Zimmerman verdict loomed, spent several days with 60 African-American boys and saw the sting of their lives being cheapened.’

But if you take time to read anything in this post, then I encourage you to take some time on these last two:

The story of Wesley Hall and what he wants you to know about being a young black man in America. Hopefully, as you read his account, you will be nodding your head to the sense that he is making in terms of how his parents raised him to be and at the same time completely becoming angrier and more frustrated that this has had to be his reality.

And finally this amazing piece by Eugene Cho who I believe is a strong prophetic voice for the kingdom in the world today – this was the best response piece I have read so far on this whole case and I hope we will take this seriously. Especially the white people. Stop the excuses. Stop justifying or diverting attention or being defensive. f our black brothers and sisters are hurting why can’t we just shut up and mourn with them?

These words stuck out for me strongly:

‘Please don’t reduce this story to a mere 24 hour social media frenzy.

Examine yourself. Count the costs.

Commit yourself to justice, reconciliation, and peacemaking. God invites and calls us to be agents of reconciliation to a world in need of much mending, healing, and grace.

We must take this call to heart.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:18-20′

This has been a long post, especially if you have taken time to read the different articles and watch the video clips and if you haven’t then I encourage you to do so. This is such an important moment in America’s history [and so representative of the same kind of issues in South Africa and the UK and probably most other countries where there is more than one race or culture of people living] and it can so easily blow over until the next one happens, or it can be a transformative catalyst for change. It needs to be this. Which is why instead of being tired of people talking about ‘The Trayvon Martin case” get tired about the circumstances that allowed for it to happen in the first place. Get tired and angry enough to do something about it.
As I was reading through these various accounts relating to a whole number of different aspects of race-related issues, I was struck by the amount of grace and love and hopefulness that existed in so many people who could have chosen to respond differently. And in the space of being a white person caught up in something that has all the appearances of being a systemic black problem [it’s not, this problem is all of ours] and wondering what is my response to this? What can I do to make and be a difference? I was reminded of this prayer by Francis of Assisi, which is a great starting point and call to action:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

 

 

“I think the church has lost its path, you know. It is so entertainment-focused. The true place of the church is here, where Jesus would be and we are trying to bring that back. We are motivated by convictions around justice, and looking at the life of Jesus, and the book of Matthew in which we learn to love our enemies. The job of the church is to be a sign of hope for a community and the greatest weapon we have as Christians, is love. At the end of the day Christianity is about sacrifice and the cross.” [Nigel Branken from this article by Jessica Eaton titled, ‘Hope in Hillbrow: ‘If Jesus lived anywhere, it would be here.’]

branken

The Two Cents blog I help put together [conversations on the intersections between FAITH and FINANCES with some JUSTICE thrown in for good measure] recently ran a deeply challenging article by Nigel looking at the difference between minimum wage and a living wage in terms of how we pay those who work for us. So not too much surprise that I discover that him and his family are practicing what they preach having moved into one of the worst trouble spots in South Africa.

In the midst of everything that has happened around us in Americaland such as the whole Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman shooting case which brought a lot of issues of colour to the fore], this feels like a timely word and example. As church leaders, families and individuals wrestle with trying to find an appropriate response and to journey with those who would return violence for violence [understandably to an extent as this is not an isolated incident but rather one more to add to a history of fear and prejudice] the example of this middle class South Africa family might have something to say:

Nigel takes me out to the balcony overlooking Kapteijn Street and points at all the people he knows. “The best way to keep safe around here is to know as many people as you can. If you know people, they won’t hurt you.”

This all sounds too familiar to my own journey of reading Acts 2 and 3 and looking at the early church and sensing something different from what it has become and the line about church being entertainment-focused does not sound too far from the truth for a large number of them at least. Having moved into Kayamandi township for 18 months and then spent some time at the Simple Way in Philadelphia, although I didn’t quite find the answers and resonance I was searching for there I certainly was introduced to some of the deeper questions and made connection with a variety of different people who are seeking out this Truth in very different contexts and ways.

Like Bono, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, but I feel like I’m getting closer. Looking at Nigel’s motivation there are some similiar echoes and a call for me to head back to Matthew:

“I had been going through a bit of a journey myself … now obviously we are doing this as a result of our Christian faith and we looked at Matthew 5,6 and 7, huge scriptures for us, all about Jesus’s beatitudes and the same text that inspired Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King and all of those significant leaders.

“They have all looked at those teachings of Jesus and have felt that their lives were totally different from how we live our Christian faith. And when I looked at those scriptures again five years ago, I was shocked because I realised my Christianity looked nothing like it.

So take the time to read this article and try and hear and see the sounds and smells of Jesus in their story and ask the difficult questions about your own life, the church you are part of, the mission Jesus really called us to. And if there is something that needs to change, then be bold enough to step out – start small if you must, but do something, because this status quo is starting to smell…

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: