Picture for a moment, a quiet night in your neighborhood. The sun set hours ago and now you walk down the sidewalk beneath the glow of the streetlamps. As you come to an intersection and take a look down the street you see someone you don’t recognize. They have a their baseball cap pulled down and are looking at the ground as they walk, so you can’t determine who they are. There have been a lot of reports in the news recently of home burglaries and vandalism, so you turn to follow them. As you get closer you call out to the person. They don’t respond. So you call out a with a little more authority. They turn and look at you, but don’t stop walking. Now that you’re closer you realize they have something in their hands. They aren’t anyone you recognize from the neighorhood, so one last time you yell “Neighborhood watch, please stop and identify yourself”.
They finally stop and turn to face you. They start to walk toward you. Your heart rate quickens. You tell them to stop and identify themselves. “Why should I” is the response. You reach for your handgun. Now your unknown passerby gets nervous. He puts his hands up as he walks closer. “Calm down man”. They don’t respond as you tell them to stop. You don’t want to hurt them, but you don’t know who they are or what they want. The next few minutes are a blur. There’s a struggle, shouts, and finally shots fired. You stand there over the lifeless body of a man. You reach down, take his hat off to look at his face. He’s just a teenager. And he’s white.
I don’t know the details of Trayvon Martin’s death. As I’ve scanned the news over the weekend, one headline repeats itself over and over: Justice for Trayvon Martin. The short of the story is that a young man, walking to his fathers fiancee’s house was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
It’s tragic. No young 14 year old boy should have his life ended. My heart goes out to his family and friends who have a void in their life. But my heart also goes out to George Zimmerman. The man accused of killing Trayvon. A man who was doing the job he was hired to do. The job he felt responsible to do to provide a safe neighborhood where his friends and family can live and play without fear from an increasingly violent and jaded world. A man who according to CNN, 75% of Americans want arrested.
People are crying out for justice for Trayvon. But what is justice in a situation like this? In Christian communities across the nation over the weekend, people gathered in support of Trayvon Martin. Many in churches, led by pastors and even celebrities. I read that at a candlelight vigil at Trayvon’s church people chanted “No justice, no peace”. These were Christian people at a church chanting “No peace”. No Peace? Till what? Till Mr. Zimmerman is imprisoned and eventually executed? Till Mr. Zimmerman is fired from him job, can’t find work anywhere because he’s been shunned, is homeless, and destitute? Is that justice? Is that what people want? What Christian people want?
But in the end, no one is crying out for justice for Mr. Zimmerman. No one wants to make sure that he is treated fairly in the court of public opinion. Would this incident be viewed the same had Mr. Zimmerman been black and the student white? It amazes me that because Trayvon was black, Mr Zimmerman is labeled as “White Hispanic”. But if a white person had been shot, would Mr. Zimmerman simply be hispanic. Where can he turn for support and justice?
Will Mr. Zimmerman ever be able to receive a fair trial after all of this? Can he expect the jury of his peers to sit there and fairly evaluate the events of that horrible night without having flashbacks to Los Angeles in 1992 when people felt that justice wasn’t served?
What is justice when two lives are destroyed with a single action? When both the perpetrator and the victim are irrevocably changed? Whether Mr. Zimmerman is convicted or not, his life will never be the same. He will go to bed each night knowing that he killed an innocent young man before he was even old enough to drive a car. The same way that Trayvon Martin’s family will go to bed each night knowing that their son, brother, cousin will not be home again. Who can say what justice is?
What should be said is, “no peace, no justice”.