Sunday, July 14, 2013


I hesitate to wade into polarizing waters online because although most of my friends are civil, there are a few on the extreme fringes that love to argue. But it's Sunday and I'm sitting here feeling like sharing some of my feelings about the verdict. Trayvon Martin was a teenage African American shot by a vigilante neighborhood watchman who alleged "self defense." If Trayvon Martin was white, and the neighborhood watch shooter was black, there probably would have been an arrest much sooner. And the trial would've had a higher probability of conviction, at least on manslaughter.
"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 prominent people there, good old white boys, using the "N" word and laughing about it. I'm not saying all in the south are racist, there were certainly many good people in the school and south who didn't do that, but I think in the whole Paula Deen culture the N word is more acceptable and a certain apathy about confronting racism is pervasive. 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. I didn't weigh the evidence and I've seen first-hand that media coverage is not always accurate. The jurors have to go only by what is presented to them and I did not sit in that courtroom. But I think it's unfair that all the jurors except one were white women. I do know that a young black man is often viewed with suspicion in our society because of his race. And white women walking down a street are usually more afraid of a young black man than someone else.
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: 21 Clemente Stories" 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.
I am not Mr. Zimmerman's judge, and I don't have access to all the facts. I believe what Jesus said about "judge not, lest ye be judged," and I believe in a God of unconditional love, eternal grace, and forgiveness for all of our sins, including Mr. Zimerman. But the blood of Trayvon Martin calls out from the streets. The good old boy cops and "stand your ground" mindset in large pockets of Florida has got to go. And the people praising God in their lily white churches today 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 by a man who was told by the professional police and 911 operator to not get out of his car and follow him?


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