Below is a Facebook status I wrote upon hearing the verdict to the George Zimmerman trial: I'm deeply saddened not just by the verdict but by the responses and by what this whole situation says about race, the justice system, this country, and Christian leadership. To be fair, the prosecution did a horrible job with the evidence and with its arguments. Many were hoping for at least manslaughter. But the real tragedy took place with how Trayvon Martin was criminalized during this trial. What's really unsettling is how race came up during this trial.
Make no mistake, race came up a lot during this trial. But interestingly enough, it was the defense, it was Zimmerman's lawyers who hammered on the issue of race.
First it was with witness Rachel Jeantel, who was Trayvon's friend. They tried to use her dialect and level of education to undercut her testimony. They took her words and tried to paint Trayvon and Rachel as racists towards whites. Yes, the person being accused of racism during the trial ended up being Trayvon, not Zimmerman.
The defense, throughout the trial, tried to create a narrative that presented Trayvon as a black thug. They used images (not the ones of him horseback riding, of course) to portray him as a threat. In essence, a case was made in favor of Zimmerman profiling, following, and shooting an unarmed teenager.
What if the racial roles were reversed? This was the question entertained, once again, NOT by the prosecution or by Trayvon's parents, but by the defense. One of Zimmerman's lawyers, after the verdict, said that if the racial roles were reversed and Zimmerman were a black man...he wouldn't have been even taken to trial. Zimmerman's lawyer publicly said that a black shooter in this predicament would have gotten off easier.
So why is this Zimmerman trial so troubling? Zimmerman wasn't merely acquitted. Trayvon, like so many of our young black and latino young boys, was criminalized and presumed not innocent. Race was declared not to be an important factor in Zimmerman's profiling (that he profiled is a fact) all the while charges of "reverse-racism" were pushed. The cynicism that some have towards the justice system here was merely reaffirmed.
And while I've been frustrated with the insensitivity of many responses to the verdict/trial, I'm especially disappointed with the response of many Christian leaders. "Peace. Love. Unity." While I want to say "amen" to this...I don't want to overlook and downplay what has happened (and what continues to happen in this country). As Christians, we must stand with those who are vulnerable. Always. Now is not the time for cowardice. Now is not the time to hide behind singing some Cumbayá. Don't say 'peace, peace' where there is no peace.