What Trayvon Martin Teaches Us About Ourselves

If we are willing to learn, then Trayvon Martin can teach us something about ourselves. Even now, four days after the verdict the discussion continues.

Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of George Zimmerman has staged a morality play into which we have been drawn. Like it or not, each of us have become a part of the drama.

Impolite Facebook posts, angry tweets, slanted news stories, all seek a foothold in the story to influence public opinion. Even this blog posting becomes a part of the noisy conversation.

What can we learn from this tragedy?

Trayvon Martin teaches us about fear.

It would seem fear would cause a man like George Zimmerman to patrol his neighborhood and to carry a gun while doing it. As he tells the story, it was fear for his life that empowered him to shoot Trayvon Martin.

There’s plenty of fear to go around, though. African American mothers and fathers will now fear even more for their children whenever they leave the home. Will someone see their child as a threat?

Does fear inform our response? Does Trayvon Martin become the metaphor for all our fear about the unknown lawlessness that lurks in our communities? Does aquitting George Zimmerman make us feel more safe? Does our fear cause us to see innocent people as threats?

Why are you afraid?

Trayvon Martin teaches us about racism.

A young African American male died. That happens too often in our society.  Zimmerman knew there had been recent neighborhood break-ins by African American males and this surely affected the way he saw Trayvon Martin that evening.

The way Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of George Zimmerman so quickly became defined along racial issues demonstrates how racism shadows our common experiences.

Only each of us knows how our thinking about this issue was defined in our minds along “black-white” categories.

Simply stated, not all young African-American males walking alone at night are criminally inclined. In fact, they more likely are not so inclined. To think otherwise is racist.

Trayvon Martin teaches us about justice.

The jury consisted of six women, five of them white. Would a more diverse jury have interpreted the law differently?

The courts apply the law and under the law, the jury found Zimmerman not guilty. In one sense, this is justice for him, but it feels eternally hollow for Trayvon Martin.

Loving our neighbors as ourselves means there never can be peace for me unless there is peace for you, too.

The death of Trayvon Martin, the jury’s verdict, and the outraged response by so many people means we have work to do to find justice for everyone. The brokenness in the system means we are having trouble loving our neighbors as ourselves.

This is a sign of injustice among us.

Travyon Martin teaches us about grace.

Grace unveils the godliness at work in the world. It can be hard to find in tragedies like this, but if we look we can see God working. There are places where helpful and graceful conversations are happening.

The unexpected favor and gift of grace creates conversation in fearful times. How different would all our lives be if we offered conversation to each other instead of resorting to violence?

When we see the other as ourselves we are not as fearful. We set racial prejudice aside. We walk justly with each other.

From this tragedy that has forever changed so many lives, may we learn to live more gracefully among each other.

May we set aside our fear, work through our racism, embrace justice and walk gracefully with each other. 

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