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Go in Peace. Not Silence.

By Waltrina Middleton, National Minister for Youth Advocacy and Leadership Formation, United Church of Christ

Waltrina MiddletonGeorge Zimmerman returned to the arms of his parents and siblings on Saturday. Trayvon Benjamin Martin is dead.  Zimmerman showed little if any remorse or accountability for the death of 17-year old Martin, who he profiled and gunned down a year ago, in Martin’s own neighborhood, for looking suspicious.  Zimmerman, a multiracial man of color, targeted a young boy of color who was only trying to get home out of the rain after a run to a nearby convenience store for Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea.

I sat numb as I heard the six woman jury’s verdict that acquitted George Zimmerman, emancipating him of the innocent blood on his hands.  I worried about what I was sure the media would call a riotous response, even if there was peaceful protest.  I worried about the misrepresentation of expressed anger, hurt, fear and sorrow by the community at large.  I worried about an ongoing perpetuation of stereotypes attached to people of color, portraying them as violent criminals and a threat to society.  I was immediately time-warped to when rules for public behavior as a kid were stricter for me as a young Black girl than they were for my young counterparts who were white.  They had freedom of movement and to be youth while I did not. They could run, be loud, play and jump up and down, while folks smiled and called them cute, adorable and little angels.  I was told to sit quietly, remain still, and don’t bring attention to myself.  I joined the plantation of invisible children and for me, growing up in rural South Carolina, the unspoken expectation was to know your place.

Martin did not have freedom of movement or freedom to be a youth.  He paid the ultimate price for forgetting his place in a society that restricted his right to go and buy something as colorfully youthful as Skittles, walk the streets of his family’s neighborhood and get home alive.  Jim Crow is alive and well.  A teenage boy is dead.  The jury has spoken.  One mom embraces her son. Another mother clutches to the memories gone and dreams deferred.  A broken system thrives standing its ground.  An unarmed child is gone.

There should be outrage, hurt, anger and also activism.  The bondage of silence must be broken. Hold fast to our faith and hold fast to the plow turning the long arc of the moral universe toward justice and against the Bell Curve.  After all, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works?” (James 2:14-26). I joined the many who called for calm and peaceful demonstration.  But my prayers for peace are not calls for silence or invisibility and should not be misgiven for those childhood experiences that confined some children of color to stealth like posture when at the crossroads of the Public Square.

Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Ella’s Song champions “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes… Until the killing of Black men and Black mother’s sons is as important as the killing of white men and white mother’s sons.  We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.” Ella Baker’s prophetic voice resonates loudly as a call to action and a call to come from out of the shadows of the anemic culture of violence to be seen and heard and to do without the crippling fear of labels, lashes and lies.

Our prayers sustain the brokenhearted and give comfort to the grieving.  Our prayers affirm the humanity and steadfast faith of the dehumanized, victimized and invisible people.  Our prayers behold the hope of those restless freedom riders, marchers, chanters, online petition signing, occupying, boundary breaking, revolutionary making, and peaceful agitators for justice who use their unique callings as ministers, lawyers, legislators, business executives, college professors, school teachers, venture capitalists, musicians, actors, talk show hosts, inventors, philosophers ,radio personalities, college students, judges, global ambassadors, scientists, public figures, writers, web designers, filmmakers, business owners, environmentalists, and beyond to dismantle a broken system that must be dissected and exposed through our works and faith-inspired actions using tools of innovation for a New Age movement.

We cannot remain silent and complicit in the antiquated systemic roots-brewing cultures of violence through racism, classism, sexism and otherism—guilty for not looking like, dressing like, talking like or voting like me.

We must unveil lthe ugly sore of racism lest it festers and explode.  Or perhaps for the latter, we are too late to implore Jesus to come and heal the dying child? (Mark5:35-43; Matthew 9:18) Jesus went to the young child who was declared dead by the jurors in the community and, in spite of mockery and mischaracterization, Jesus declared it was not too late to act.  His actions and his faith revived hope.

A jury has indeed made its decision.  Six women, pundits, politicians and preachers have all had their say.  Now we must speak.  We must pray.  We must act. We have been implored to come for the sake of our children and we must go.

We must go.

George Zimmerman is free.

Trayvon Benjamin Martin, the young child, is dead.

And so is our faith by itself, if it has no works. (James 2:17)

Go in peace, but go.
*Previously published at https://www.facebook.com/notes/united-black-christians-of-united-church-of-christ/go-in-peace-but-go-a-reflection-on-a-murder-and-an-acquittal/464509060307474 Used with the author’s permission.


One Response to “Go in Peace. Not Silence.”
  1. Jennie Ferrette says:

    This article makes me sad, the entire first paragraph was written as though the author was an eye witness. Was Martin targeted or profiled and gunned down? The jury after hearing all of the facts, did not beleive it was so. Racism raises it’s ugly head from every color, stand against all racism, be outraged against all injustice; go forward and love your neighbor, all of your neighbors.

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