Saturday, March 24, 2012


Trayvon Martin was a teenage African American shot by a vigilante neighborhood watchman who alleges "self defense." If Trayvon Martin was white, and the neighborhood watch shooter was black, there would have been an arrest by now.

"Richard aren't you playing the race card without knowing the facts?" some might ask. That's a valid question and I can only tell you my personal experience.

I've played gospel rock with close friends and collaborators in black churches and know firsthand many black gospel singers and preachers who have been pulled over repeatedly and harassed with no probable cause, simply because they were black and driving a decent car. I'm talking about friends who are the most godly people I know.

At nineteen, I left my hometown of Pittsburgh and went to a Christian college in the South led by a leading televangelist. To my shock, I heard leaders of the ministry, good old white boys, using the "N" word and laughing about it. Don't you find it curious that there is a strange silence from the white church community about Trayvon Martin? All these white evangelicals who claim to love Jesus are silent. They worship the white Republican good old boy Jesus, not the Jesus who healed the sick, fed the five thousand hungry people, healed the brokenhearted, and had good news for the poor. I wrote a song that afternoon in which the lyrics state "I've heard in the South talk of love and kin/but seen some folks hate for a color of skin."

"But Richard, you don't know the facts of what happened," some might say. And they are right. I don't know. I am limited by the information I receive through the media, and the media is prone to mistakes. But I do know that a young black man is often viewed with suspicion in our society because of his race. When Susan Smith, a white Southern woman had a mental breakdown and murdered her children, the first thing out of her mouth was a young black man did it. The media and the vigilantes were out for a lynching. My gut instinct tells me if Trayvon Martin wasn't black he would not have been shot.

The film I'm making currently "Baseball's Last Hero: The Roberto Clemente Story" is going to rip the lid off the racist reporters in my hometown of Pittsburgh and show how they conspired to abuse Roberto and at times rob him of his rightful rewards. The leading paper in my hometown, the Post Gazette, published an editorial in December 2007 saying Obama shouldn't be president because he's black. Regardless of your political affiliation or who you might vote for, what does it say about us if in the 21st century a newspaper has an editorial so blatantly racist? This is a paper that poses as the progressive intelligent voice of Pittsburgh. It's not good enough to use for toilet paper or to line a bird cage to catch the droppings.

The blood of Trayvon Martin calls out from the streets. The good old boy cops in Florida have got to go. And the people praising God in their lily white churches tomorrow morning might remember the Old Testament prophets description of a people who "honor God with their lips but their hearts are far from Him." And take pause to ask themselves how they would feel if their own teenage child was unarmed and gunned down in the streets?


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