When I was asked to write about the recent George Zimmerman verdict, I hesitated a moment. I’m not an attorney. I don’t have expertise in the law or criminal justice. I’ve not experienced violence (thank G-d), nor would I suggest that I can even begin to understand the experience of being a young black male (or a half-white-half-Latino-male for that matter). I have facilitated discussions on diversity and racism, but I cannot claim to be an expert on race relations. I have some knowledge of the incidents that occurred on the night of Trayvon Martin’s death, from listening to NPR and other news sources, but in all honesty I didn’t follow much of George Zimmerman’s trial.
So my response to this case, given my limited knowledge of subjects surrounding it, has been one of feeling.
Feelings of heartbreak, as a mother, watching another mother lose her beloved son.
Feelings of grief, as a parent, recognizing that our children are losing their innocence – if not their lives – before they graduate high school, middle school, kindergarten.
Feelings of fear, as a wife of a man of color, learning of yet another murder of a man of color.
Feelings of hopelessness, as a pacifist, hearing of more violence in our nation.
Feelings of outrage, as a social worker, perceiving a glaring absence of social justice in our country.
Feelings of despair, as an American, questioning whether we as a diverse people will ever be able to live together, not merely in tolerance, but in peace, understanding, and mutual respect of every person’s humanity.
I hesitated to expose these raw, visceral emotions that readers may rightfully point out are not grounded in expertise, experience, or vast knowledge. However, these feelings – and some understanding (as a social worker) of societies, relationships, and people – lead me to a few principles which appear to me to be undeniable truths:
If the law allows for murder of an unarmed black teenager, then the law must be changed.
If the police department fails to charge a man with blood on his hands who admits to murder, then the police department must change.
If our culture necessitates that parents of color teach their sons about the risks of simply being males of color, then our culture must change.
And if the predominant thinking is to call into question the innocence of a young unarmed black male rather than bring to justice a self-acknowledged murderer, then our thinking must change.
Yes, I hesitated to write this blog without advanced knowledge of the law, the case, or the experiences of the victim. But what I know about humans and societies is that in order to change, we must recognize the need to change. And it is for that reason that I share my realizations with you. Because to not do so, is to be complicit in accepting the status quo.
It is my hope and prayer that, in the words of abolitionist Theodore Parker (often quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr.), “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.”