Go in Peace. Not Silence.
Waltrina Middleton, Minister for Youth Advocacy and Leadership Formation for the United Church of Christ, offers this reflection on violence after the acquittal of George Zimmerman. "A jury has indeed made its decision...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...Go in peace, but go."
Go in Peace. Not Silence.
By Waltrina N.Middleton
George Zimmerman returned to the arms of his parents and siblings on Saturday. Trayvon Benjamin Martin is dead. Zimmerman showed little if any remorse or accountabilityfor the death of 17-year old Martin whom he profiled and gunned down a year agoin 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 rainafter a run to a nearby convenience store for Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea.
I sat numb as I heard the six women 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 it was 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, whilefolks 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 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 isgone.
There should be outrage, hurt, anger and also activism. The bondage of silence must bebroken. 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 untilit 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, 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 dissectedand exposed through our works and faith inspired actions using tools ofinnovation 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 notlooking like, dressing like, talking like or voting like me.
We must unveil the 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? (Mark 5:35-43; Matthew 9:18) Jesus went to the young child who was declared dead bythe 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 indeedmade 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 ourfaith by itself, if it has no works. (James 2:17)
Go in peace, but go.
Waltrina N. Middleton serves as National Minister for Youth Advocacy and Leadership Formation with theUnited Church of Christ who was supporting interfaith youth and young adultministry 30 minutes outside of Sanford, FL when the acquittal verdict wasannounced late night Saturday, July 13, 2013. This op-ed reflects the opinionof its author and not necessarily the views of the United Church of Christ andits settings. Email –firstname.lastname@example.org.