I’m spending the week in Ocean Park, Maine, where I preached on Sunday and am leading a morning discussion this week. As the name indicates, Ocean Park is right on the ocean, and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy some of the most beautiful beach we have on the East Coast. There’s something about the place where the vast and fluid ocean meets, caresses, rhythmically slaps against the solid and steady earth that speaks to my spirit. Especially in the early morning dawn. I wanted to share with you a video I made of dawn over the beach at Ocean Park, so you can hear the sound of the waves and the birds, and through the whole scene, to hear God speaking. But the file was too large to incorporate into this blog, and I don’t know another way to do it. So I’m sharing this picture and asking you to use your imagination.
It truly is peaceful and beautiful. Just like God.
I felt the beauty of God’s creation like that most poignantly when I was in Ghana, high on a cliff looking out on the Atlantic, thousands of miles from here, from the other direction. The view was wondrously beautiful. I was in a large castle-like building. In the massive building was a torture chamber where slaves were chained, beaten, held in brutal captivity, then sent out in ships from the door in that place, which the slaves knew as “the door of no return.”
Can you imagine so much heart wrenching, evil horror taking place amid such beauty, the beauty that God created for us out of God’s great love? I couldn’t help but cry at the thought of the agony my ancestors went through at the hands of horribly brutal people, many who claimed to believe in the God of creation.
I felt that same paradox here in Ocean Park Maine, as I was trying to deal with my broken heart over the injustice of the decision that set free as “innocent” the man who shot Trayvon Martin. It still hurts. And it was all done under the rubric of the legal system, which is designed by humans to implement justice. What a mockery. What a mockery of the God of justice.
I think those jurors, if they were being honest, would have come to a different conclusion without the 29 pages of jury instructions and the convoluted efforts of the defense to make what seems right into something much more complicated. Without the complications of the law, they would have seen Trayvon as an innocent, unarmed young person, going on his way, minding his own business. They would have seen Zimmerman as the aggressor, armed with a dangerous weapon, the one who disobeyed police orders not to follow. They would have recognized that if Zimmerman had not followed Trayvon, Trayvon would be alive. They would have had enough common sense to understand that if Zimmerman had not gotten out of his vehicle and come up from behind close enough to Trayvon to make Trayvon feel threatened, there would have been no altercation. The jury would have seen that Trayvon is dead, slaughtered at the hands of a man who went against the authorities, whether or not it was was Zimmerman’s initial intention to kill him, and whether or not Zimmerman may have feared for his own life. I thought they would at least have had the common sense to conclude that Zimmeran did in fact initiate the acts that resulted in him killing an innocent and unarmed man–manslaughter.
They were confused, at best. And I’m sure, as are most folks in this world who know anything about how this nation works, that if Trayvon had been white and Zimmerman black, Zimmerman would have been arrested immediately and thrown under the jail. Isn’t that what happened in the case of the black woman in Florida who was sentenced to prison after trying to use the same law to justify her shooting into the air and not killing anybody? The jury had to be confused, unless they were bribed, because the decision doesn’t make any sense. And I can’t rule bribery out, either, because there was money behind Zimmerman that I can’t figure out. Maybe some of you know more about the money that financed this man’s defense than I do.
My heart was crying when I talked to God at dawn that beautiful morning, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. Crying over the injustice of it all. Crying over such horror committed amid such beauty. Crying over such evil that exists in the hearts of people, who wrap the evil up and try to hide it with good words like justice, law and order, patriotism, and yes, even sometimes Christianity. I felt like I could see all the way across to Ghana, and realized that the horror has not really ended for us.
God’s justice will not be mocked.
As a Black woman, the result of this fiasco of a trial has taken me across a tipping point. This is the fourth slap in my face. The first slap I felt was from the efforts of state officials in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia,Texas and others to wrench away the votes of mostly Black and Hispanic people during the last two Presidential elections. Ouch! The second was the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, which has refueled those efforts to take away our votes. Ouch! The third is the continued effort by white people to do away with affirmative action, claiming that they, the ones with all of the power on their side, are being discriminated against by laws that were designed to help ameliorate the hundreds of years of slavery, oppression, and injustice that our people have faced and still face. Ouch! Four slaps ought to wake us up. (I wish Clarence Thomas could feel these slaps. I’m convinced that he’s numbed by his own sense of self-accomplishment. Maybe he doesn’t realize that it is his numbness (antagonism?) to his people that made him the right choice to be maneuvered into place by those who want that numbness in high places–or maybe he does realize that, I don’t know.)
So instead of hearing peace in the gentle, rhythmic slapping of the waves on the shore this week, I heard a call to action. I heard God proclaiming that God will not be mocked, that God’s justice should flow down like a river and God’s righteousness should be like a mighty stream. Justice should not be tripped up by pages and pages of jury instructions or political shenanigans that try to make right seem wrong and wrong seem right.
It’s time to wake up and get busy. It’s time to unite and stand up and fight back. It’s time to renew our commitment to and membership in the NAACP. It’s time to again march on Washington, this time united with people of all colors and faiths who know true justice when they see it. It’s time to organize and participate in organizations that will speak, with the power of the people behind them, to those in powerful positions. It’s time to change laws and lawmaking, time to shore up the voting rights act, time to reclaim the need for Affirmative Action more than ever. Are you with me?