The sociological definition of racism is "prejudice plus power." In Trayvon Martin's case, he not only fell victim to a man soaked in prejudicial anger, but his killer was not brought to justice because of a system of power that is stacked against him and people of color. The whole story may seem like something out of the Jim Crow Era but it is happening now, in 21st century America, at a time when we consider ourselves to be racially enlightened.
Many have rallied to Trayvon's cause but we must ask ourselves: Are we going about it the right way? I have found myself to be very frustrated the past few days at many who have worn hoodies to show a sign of solidarity with Trayvon Martin. It is a mistake to assume that Trayvon Martin was killed because of his clothing. He was killed because he was black. And only those who have been (or could be) victims of that kind of racism can relate to that. Putting on a hoodie does not put one in league with Trayvon Martin.
The governments of Brevard County, Florida and the state of Florida share equal culpability in failing to bring this man to justice. We can continue to protest by clicking "like" on Facebook or sharing YouTube videos. Or we can do as Jesus has commanded us to do and fight for justice for Trayvon. We can incorporate a dialogue of anti-racism into our own faith practices. We can make a difference where governments beholden to systems of racial oppression cannot.
The whole situation makes me think of Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:46-49:
‘Why do you call me “Lord, Lord”, and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.’
We are the people of God, called to live out God's Word in the world. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: "The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool." Let us, members of the Body of Christ, be the conscience America so desperately needs right now. Let Trayvon Martin's death not be in vain, but let us fight for justice for him and for all whom the system oppresses. Not with hoodies and social media, but with the Cross and with loud voices. Amen.