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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Martin, Zimmerman, Race

I am writing not so much about the verdict as I am about the polarities which continue to exist between blacks and whites.

People's experiences are real. However, one component of an experience may not be accurate: our assumptions. We all see things through a lense. Our lenses are shaped by personal experience, but those experiences are also shaped by our beliefs and assumptions. Race is one of those things which shape our experiences. Black people operate with different assumptions than white people. White people outnumber black people (in the US) and black people suffer as a result of that. White people have more power and influence, in general, and that gives white people an advantage. People also tend to relate to members of their own race.

I have worked extensively with black youth in two of my "previous lives" as a high school chaplain in an urban setting and as a social worker. I have been a surrogate father for many of them, and it was as likely for a black youth to call me "daddy" as a white. Even so, that does not mean that I have a deeper insight into the black experience. What I do know is the kids I worked with as a social worker believed that they were more at risk in Germantown (upscale suburb) than they were in their own neighborhood (inner city Memphis). No doubt white cops in white cities keep a closer tab on black youth and hastle them more. No doubt. Also, no doubt that the same white cops were not a leading cause of black youth deaths. The facts were not clear to my boys.

One thing which is clear today, the media seems to be indicating that a black boy killed by an Hispanic man in Florida under questionable circumstances is much more worthy of attention than many black boys killed by many black boys/men. Hence, Chicago, which seems to be a shooting gallery of late where black young men are literally dying by the hundreds has not created nation wide marches. Nor are we hearing about angry protestors assaulting people from Chicago in the name of the homicide victims in that city. No one is organizing marchs in Memphis about Chicago. No famous musicians are boycotting Illinois because of the killings...

Black pain finds its focus and expression in many of these "media circus" trials. OJ Simpson was the first (stunning) revelation of the different views. One black co-worker told me that white people did not want to see a black man be successful so that is why OJ was targeted. He believed that, even when I told him that earlier that day I had received a brochure highlighting OJ as the star of several training videos (I was the training director at the time). I know the color green (money) was more important than the iconic stars race and I know OJ made money for white people and every one of those training videos which they were marketing were suddenly useless at a loss of tens of thousands of dollars... What I did not know was the black experience of prejudice and maltreatment. This experience influenced how this man saw the world and the assumptions which he operated with. It does not mean he was right, but it did make sense of why he thought what he did.

The statements being made on TV by many blacks the past few days have to be seen and heard from that point of view. There is emotion under the words. The case is a convenient outlet for deeper feelings. White responses are likewise generated by other experiences and view points.

I have heard several times that the jury verdict means that "white people have been given the right to hunt down and shoot black children." If that is true (I think it is not) then the good news for black children is it is a right which will not be exercised by many. In fact, most white people will continue to never, ever hunt down and shoot anyone, much less a black child. The stats reveal two interesting facts, to quote from Briggs:
"Blacks who commit homicide do so at a rate about 7.5 times larger than whites who commit homicide.... This disparity also exists for other crimes: blacks commit them at about 7-10 times the rates of whites."

"Blacks kill at higher rates than they are killed. Interestingly, the difference in the killer/killed rate appears roughly constant for most years, and narrowing slightly in recent years."

Whatever else may be true about Martin's unfortunate death, it is clear that the US is not a place where white people are hunting down and killing black people. In fact, most black people are murdered by other black people, just as white people kill mostly white people. In fact, black people murder white people at a much higher rate than white people murder black people. [But it is not all bad, one positive trend is that the US is a place where less and less people are murdering each other. The rate is about half of what it was in the 90's.]

This is from a different source. For homicide trends in the US here is the government website's "Highlights:
  • In the last decade (since 2000) the homicide rate declined to levels last seen in the mid-1960s.
  • Based on data from 1980 and 2008, males represented 77% of homicide victims and nearly 90% of offenders. The victimization rate for males (11.6 per 100,000) was 3 times higher than the rate for females (3.4 per 100,000). The offending rate for males (15.1 per 100,000) was almost 9 times higher than the rate for females (1.7 per 100,000).
Murdering people is a male problem. Being murdered tends to be male as well.
Was Trayvon "a child" as we hear over and over? If reports are correct that he was over 6 foot tall (I do not know) it is fair to say if he is a child, he is a grown child. [My 15 year old son is over 6 foot. I clearly do not advocate shooting teens. I would probably 'feel' he was a child if he was gunned down on his way home from a convenience store.] The question is, does using the word child imply that 17 year olds are too young to be dangerous? You can see from the site below that .5% of murders were committed by children under 14. The 14-17 age cohort accounted for 10.6% of murders (they only  make up 5.7% of the population) and 18-24 year olds commit 37.5% of murders (while making up 10.6% of the population). Not all children are safe. Young people a bit older and younger than Trayvon murder at rates two to three the rate of their numbers. When I taught high school one of my favorite kids, Andrew, was sixteen. I was thirty. He stood 5' 8" and about 190 pounds. I was 5' 10" and 180. He came up behind me and put me in a bear hug to play with me. He literally crushed the air out of my lungs and I could not breath. At that time I was weightlifting and could bench 200 and squat over 300. That young man was still much stronger than me. So even a "child" of 17 can have manlike characteristics.

It may not have been Zimmerman's role to follow the young man (that is clearly a precipitating factor), but there is a fair question to ask. Are there legitimate roles for people to play in the policing of their own neighborhoods? Police are not always dependable, recall Asian store keepers standing in the streets of LA keeping rioters from looting their shops. I may think it was wrong but their shops (and livelihood) were intact at the end of the day while other stores were emptied of wares and burned to the ground (because people were "protesting" an unjust verdict).

Were the jurors right? We were not there (in court or at the scene of the crime). We do not know exactly what happened. (Really no one knows) It does appear that choices were made by both people which led to a deadly confrontation. Zimmerman acted rashly and placed himself in a situation which increased the likelihood of a conflict. Martin clearly did something. We do not know what. [In truth, neither of them could recount exactly what took place. Memory is notoriously faulty and memory in extremely stressful circumstances is even less trustworthy. The part of the brain that kicks in is reactive, while stress tends to shut down the rational brain.] I think it is fair to say that Zimmerman was wrong to approach the boy, but I do not know if he did. I do not know what Martin did (he did NOT deserve to be shot and killed). Was he acting macho in the the face of perceived threat? Did racial profiling occur ("dangerous black man" vs. "cracka")? Was testosterone to blame? Had the same confrontation taken place the day before or the day after would it have possibly ended peacably? ["Hello young man, I don't believe I know you. I am George, the local neighborhood watch captain" ""Hello, I am Trayvon, I am visiting my dad's girlfriend and just went out for a soda and skittles." "Okay, sorry to have bothered you, have a great night!"]

Was the law broken? Was there reasonable doubt that it was a murder? Was the criteria present to justify the shooting (legally if not morally)? I did not sit in the courtroom and I do not know. I do know that the law is not always sensible and somethings are legal even if not right (like abortion). I know for parents who lose a son the pain and heartache are unbearable and for a racial community to endure yet another murder of one of its own taps into deep feelings of anger and despair. Those feelings are connected to white racism (both actual and perceived) and black struggles (both self generated and other caused). Those feelings are generated by emotions and perceptions and assumptions and beliefs.

I am a white guy who tends to see the world from a particular perspective. I do not see things through black eyes or a black perspective. I can't. Still, I do not see how turning this into a race war benefits anyone.  I know why many white people see young black men (even a 17 year old "child") as dangerous. It is not fair, but it is also not ridiculous. People's assumptions lead them to view these young men (as "our children" or as "dangerous"). Even though the majority of black young men are not dangerous a disproportionate number of them are. Black people do well to admit this latter fact. White people do well to remember the former is true. All of us need to understand that the views of each of us is filtered through all manner of beliefs and assumptions. Some of it we do not control. And it is hard to be aware of our assumptions because they are assumed! We all pick and choose what we focus on and how we interpret the information. We all spin. we all filter out some things and emphasize others. We all do it. There is no way to completely avoid it. The conflicts and differences are real. We need to listen more and argue less. We need to, but even if we do sometimes we will still end up disagreeing. We will still end up saying, "Zimmerman should have gotten the death penalty" or "He should have gone to jail for twenty years" or "He should have got off" or "He was a  hero." We will say it because we believe it and we will believe it because of our experiences and beliefs. We will not bridge every gap and the tension and conflict will remain... So we pray, "Come Lord Jesus!" and "Deliver us from evil!"


  1. Marx, Zimmerman, and Racism

    >I am writing not so much about the verdict as I am about the polarities which continue to exist between blacks and whites.

    Actually, Jeff, what you're doing is continuing to demonstrate your deep need to make a complete ass of yourself in public.

    Poor fellow, when I said earlier today that I had expected you to post something clueless and offensive about Martin and Zimmerman, that wasn't meant to be a dare. Holy cow! If possible, you have just demonstrated your abject lunacy even more thoroughly than you did with Serena Williams.

    I'm in a quandary. I said earlier today that you should stop typing--and your nonsense here proves, more effectively than anything I could ever say, the urgency of *that* advice--but on the other hand, the part of me that rather enjoys seeing witless types make spectacles of themselves is almost having to appreciate the fact that you wrote something here that is better than any satire. In fact, it's almost impossible to distinguish from a satire of someone who is implicitly announcing his racism, all the while stoutly denying it.

    I'll address just three points (for everyone else--you've probably stopped reading before now, to go lick your wounds). You got grabbed from behind by a black teen one time and that seems to have aroused you to the idea that those bad boys might be just a tad dangerous. Actually, I took martial arts training from someone more formidable than your student, who could have killed me with his bare hands. It didn't give me a permanent wariness around blacks. That's called perspective, Jeff. You're supposed to get more of it, the older you get. In you case, I dunno.

    You wondered if, had this happened on a different day, Zimmerman might have walked up and said "Hello, I'm the neighborhood watch guy," and they might have had a pleasant exchange. You are supposing this possibility of someone who, as everyone knows, referred to "f___ing punks" just before following Martin. Actually, Jeff, had you ever read the gospels with attention, you would have read a saying of the Savior about "straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel," and I can't help but think of that here.

    Finally, you say it "may not have been" Zimmerman's role to follow Martin. "May not" have been? Umm, bud, the police *told* him not to follow him. Oh, but I forgot--you think the police are sometimes unreliable.

    Really, Jeff, this is getting kind of freaky. You are like a character in a story I am writing, except that I haven't written it, and you carry out the things I would have had the clueless, bigoted character do, had I actually gotten around to putting pen to paper.

    And so, I actually came across an article today which is exactly apropos of this whole thing. It's written by one of our fellow whites. He's a man about our age. He actually has a 14-year-old son named Luke!

    And unlike you, his writing shows that he may actually understand something about Christianity. Here is the link to his article. Read it and, if you can get over your kneejerk reaction that what he says has nothing to do with the matter, you may actually learn something.

    You're welcome.

  2. Jeff, you're on a roll. Next, please post something the black Florida woman who was given 20 years for invoking Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law and firing a warning shot into the air to warn off her estranged husband, a known abuser.

    Zimmerman killed a minor, and this woman, invoking the same law, didn't even injure anyone, but she got 20 years. You can explain to us that the difference in the two verdicts had nothing to do with race but was based on the need for wifely submission.

    Thanks for a very entertaining interlude to my reading, and please, keep those umm, unique insights of yours coming! Some of us are reading with our mouths on the floor.

  3. I almost forgot...I know that when you made the point about your student squeezing you from behind, you did not intend to claim that blacks in general were dangerous (you did that in other parts of your post) but that we might call a minor a "child," but he might have adult strength.

    Well, umm, that's part of the point, Jeff. Below a certain age, a young man may, indeed, have the strength of an adult but may not know how to handle that strength temperately because his judgment is, well, comparable to that of a boy--come to think of it, Jeff, rather like yours!

    Which means that those of us who are of adult age (like George Zimmerman) bear the responsibility of being, well, the *adults* in the situation, managing the situation wisely, and not taking steps that might lead to a physical confrontation with a kid of immature judgment who doesn't know his own strength.

    As even Jim Geraghty of National Review pointed out (National Review is a conservative publication, Jeff; it's like a more intelligent and literate version of your favorite Fox News commentators), how is it that Zimmerman's attorneys had witnesses, including his own previous martial arts trainer, lined up to testify that Zimmerman could hardly hold his own in a fight, and yet *this* is the guy who gets out of his car, against police advice, and starts following a teen? Ponder that, Jeff, and try to learn something from it.

    Finally, I'll cite a personal experience of my own. I used to be an outside debt collector. My work took me into the worst neighborhoods in Memphis, after dark. I didn't carry a weapon--indeed, wasn't allowed to, by company policy, even had I been so inclined. I have been confronted and threatened. And yes, frankly, I consider teens sometimes more dangerous than grown men, precisely because of that very lack of judgment that shows up in both them and you, though in different ways.

    I walk some part of the Shelby Farms Greenline nearly every day. The part between Highland and Tillman is not as "nice" as the rest. In the winter, as I walked alone, three black males of perhaps 13 or 14 came walking in the opposite direction. They were spread out across the entire path. They didn't part for me. They tried to stare me down. I made eye contact but kept walking.

    They didn't like that. They stopped and burst out laughing. They called out in a harsh voice, "Hey, buddy!" They obviously wanted to start something.

    I would have been within my "rights" to stop, slowly turn around, and stare. They were rude. Whether they were armed, I have no idea. I'm no Chuck Norris, but I've had a bit of martial arts training. Had it come down to it, I might have caused some damage.

    I just kept walking. Without looking back. I realized that as the adult in the situation, had there been a confrontation resulting in physical harm to them, I would have been more responsible than they.

    It's called being an adult, Jeff. How strange that you have reached your age in life and have somehow missed it. As your nonsensical post shows.

  4. Jeff, I think your Godly thoughts deserve the widest possible exposure, and I've shared them on Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter. I have no doubt that many will come to know just what your faith is and how it affects your thinking:

  5. Michael,
    I guess I should say thanks for sharing your criticism.
    Apparently you missed my point, I was not writing about the guilt or innocence of Zimmerman. I was writing about the polarity of opinions. I did not share my view of Zimmerman and his act in this piece. So you really do not know what I thought about him or what he did.
    You will be disgusted to know that many people found this helpful. I am clear that you thought it was garbage.
    I must admit that I think your comments are expressing a deeply personal hostility towards me. Now that you have let me know of your prowess in martial arts I guess I have even more reason to be concerned?
    I am sorry I so upset you, Michael, but really are you responding to what I am writing at all? I continue to pray for you because this is so overboard...

  6. >I was not writing about the guilt or innocence of Zimmerman

    Jeff, please. Have the courage of your convictions. You wrote:

    "It may not have been Zimmerman's role to follow the young man (that is clearly a precipitating factor), but there is a fair question to ask. Are there legitimate roles for people to play in the policing of their own neighborhoods?"

    In other words, you raised the issue and are now trying to be coy about it. Your disingenuousness is even worse than your original bigotry.

    >You will be disgusted to know that many people found this helpful.

    I am, indeed, but then, it tends to prove what I have thought for a long time: that those who tend to gravitate toward religion are those who have made a commitment never to fully grow up. If anyone's reaction to your post was anything but incredulity and revulsion, he or she is as much a part of the problem as you or Zimmerman.

    >I must admit that I think your comments are expressing a deeply personal hostility towards me.

    They are, indeed, and it's the only possible response of anyone who cares about truth and fair play. You are a shallow, impertinent fool and an abject disgrace.

    >Now that you have let me know of your prowess in martial arts I guess I have even more reason to be concerned?

    You have a positive genius for missing the point. My training in martial arts was brief, and my competence is little better than your competence in thinking about any question to any useful purpose. I know only just about that field to have been morally responsible had I provoked a confrontation on the Greenline that day. I hoped you got that, but then understanding responsibility (on the part of whites, anyway) is something that you apparently achieve only with difficulty.

    No, Jeff, my few weeks in the dojo are no threat to you, but you really should ponder the words of Jesus: "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off." He might have added, "Especially if it cause thee to write offensive things about the killing of an unarmed minor by a grown man and then trying to evade the drift of thine own comments."

    Jeff, just do one thing--not even for me, but for yourself. Read the link from Jim Wallis that I posted yesterday. Seriously. Read it. Unlike your nonsensical remarks, it actually shows a sound understanding of this whole issue. You can dismiss it afterward, wave it off, say Wallis is a lefty, and all the other dodges of the Fox News watcher, but really, just do yourself a favor and read it.

    I'll be looking forward to your post about how the San Francisco TV station that posted the racially offensive made-up names of the Asiana airline pilots was judged unfairly, how the Asian pilots did a lot worse in their mistakes, and how, anyway, Asians have prejudices too. Perhaps there are those, as ignorant as you are, as immature as you are, and as frightened of facing the big, bad world outside their narrow little mental universes as you are, who will find that helpful as well.

    But read the Wallis link, Jeff. It will take you 5 minutes. Just humor me.

  7. Thanks for the reference to the article. I thought it was well written and insightful. So why would Wallis have a problem with me saying the following?
    "Black people operate with different assumptions than white people. White people outnumber black people (in the US) and black people suffer as a result of that. White people have more power and influence, in general, and that gives white people an advantage. People also tend to relate to members of their own race."
    Why would Wallis be offended by me saying "I know for parents who lose a son the pain and heartache are unbearable and for a racial community to endure yet another murder of one of its own taps into deep feelings of anger and despair. Those feelings are connected to white racism (both actual and perceived) and black struggles (both self generated and other caused). Those feelings are generated by emotions and perceptions and assumptions and beliefs."
    Those are serious question. Please educate me if you think I am missing something. (Telling me I am an immature idiot is not much help. Treat me with some of the compassion you seem to feel for Trayvon, please)

    Wallis is addressing one very,very,very important side of the issue. He is helping white people have an insight into the viewpoint of many (most) Blacks. That is a worthy endeavor...
    Wallis is not, however, addressing everything. Nor does he claim to. I would think Wallis would say it is fair to ask questions beyond the one he addresses.
    Is there a need for neighborhood watch?
    Were break-ins a problem in this neighborhood?
    Does the perspective of whites and non-blacks have any basis in reality?
    I have actually been to Sanford many times over the lasst fifteen years and I know that there have been problems.
    Does this justify shooting Trayvon? NO NO NO NO NO NO NO (just wanted you to see that). But the context is larger than one man and one child and that is what I am really addressing.
    You seem to know George pretty well and are clear that he was a racist. Some other people claim he wasn't I do not know. Don't claim to know. All I wanted to do is discuss the DIFFERENT view points (notice the "s" implies multiple) and so I wrote about other sides of the issue.
    To date I have heard lots of people say that if Trayvon was white he would never have had a problem. I would add if he was a girl he probably wouldn't have either. Or if he was old. The issue is about race, for sure, but a particular segment of the race. Ironically you chose to share a story of three black teens hassling you. So are you a racist?
    As for your claim that I am too frightened to face the big bad world.... I have spent over fifteen years working in the inner city and with inner city folks. I even lived there. If you want to go vicious in the name of truth fine, there is plenty wrong with me, but try to be truthful in the attack, fair enough?

  8. I'm sincerely glad you read the Wallis article.

    If he read yours, he would have been as outraged as I am.

    The salient points of your post, as I understand them, were:

    1. Feelings are strong on both sides of this. We must all realize that perceptions may differ between races, based on the different experience of each.

    2. Blacks kill other blacks. Where's the outrage about that?

    3. Trayvon is continually referred to as a "child." Minors can be strong and dangerous too.

    4. This single instance of death doesn't prove that there's a general problem of white-on-black violence. (You actually said that if black children are scared of being hunted, the "good news" is that people won't do it often! If you don't believe me, go back and read your own text. That single statement is so jaw-droppingly offensive, so casually cruel in its flippancy, as to more than justify ever insult I've thrown at you and then some.)

    5. Zimmerman may have not been the wisest in what he did, but it is appropriate for citizens to protect their neighborhoods.

    I believe that in stating the above, I've covered the major issues you meant to make.

    And I still feel the same way about your post. It all has to do with context, Jeff, which is the aspect you don't seem to want to understand.

    That blacks and whites may have different perceptions is trivially true, though Wallis managed to get beyond that, as have other white spokesmen. In fact, that is what I also was attempting to do, which is why I cited the instance of the three black teens. I didn't see them just walking along and start to follow them, let alone follow them armed, as Zimmerman did; I was effectively blocked by them, and they tried to stare me down. After I ignored this, they still tried to provoke me. To ask if merely relating that story makes me a racist shows, Jeff, more clearly than anything I could say, your own shallowness and immaturity.

    That blacks kill other blacks is also true and has nothing whatsoever to do with why an unarmed black should be followed by an armed white or whether the black would like have made it home OK but for the color of his skin.

    That minors can be strong and dangerous is a point I have already addressed: knowing that, the adult in the situation becomes more responsible for managing his own perceptions and the outcome. As I did with the three black teens.

    That a single instance doesn't prove that it's "open season" on blacks is breathtakingly irrelevant and evasive; it doesn't *have* to be used to prove any such thing, since the disparate experiences of otherwise peaceable blacks at the hands of authorities in America has already been well known for years--that is, to everyone who did not wish to hide from that knowledge. Can you seriously be in your 50s and not aware of this, Jeff? Really? I remember reading an essay by filmmaker and author Gordon Parks, some years ago, about how he was stopped and frisked by two white policemen as he merely walked home to his apartment on the Upper East Side of New York, even though he was wearing a suit and tie. When they found his press card, they backed off. They said, by way of excusing themselves, "Not all robbers wear masks, sir." To which he rightly replied, "Nor do they all wear black faces."

  9. Bud, you obviously have no idea what a privileged perspective you have. You have not lived in a society where Jeff Marx was looked at by the authorities as an object of suspicion for no reason but the color of his skin, so you are sincerely oblivious to the problem. It's understandable for whites, up to a point, but a few of us are trying to educate ourselves, instead of simply restating our own limited understanding.

    As to citizens needing to participate in protecting their neighborhoods, again, categorically true, but one has a right to doubt if the neighborhoods will be safer because of excitable types like Zimmerman, who follow people, armed, even when told not to by police dispatchers and who mutter "f___ing punks" because someone has the wrong skin color and is wearing a hoodie.

    I live in a part of East Memphis where it is known that urban gangs sometimes send their members to commit mischief, as a test. My apartment complex is nice enough, but there have been a few "incidents." But that doesn't mean that I respond with the foolishness and racism of a Zimmerman.

    My neighbor and I were standing outside talking the other day. The door of a nearby apartment opened, and a black man walked out. The last my neighbor and I had known, a white couple lived there. Had I been Zimmerman, I might have started either following the man or at least questioning him intrusively to make sure he hadn't broken into the apartment.

    I had a work crew of three black guys come to my apartment a few months ago. One of them mostly stayed outside and was bent over double, near the back of the apartment, near the bushes. It turned out he was too sick to work. Had I been Zimmerman, I would have started by suspecting that he was on drugs.

    You can talk about your years of inner-city experience all you like, Jeff, but judging from the smug, clueless way you write about race, you obviously learned little or nothing. I'm reminded of the scripture I was reading just the other day about foolishness in an older man being distasteful to others.

    So to sum up, Jeff, you spent a lot of time typing a post, the volume of which was in inverse proportion to any insight or wisdom applied. It basically amounted to one big attempt to skirt the issue.

    This is really unfortunate. I wish I could say I thought you were stupid, but I know for a fact that you're not, Jeff. You're a highly intelligent man, which makes your transgression here all the more grave. It's not that you can't understand, Jeff: you don't WANT TO. You want to hide in your smug ignorance, taking refuge in inane non-points that don't address the central issue, and you want this taken for wisdom. And god help you, you have probably managed to surround yourself with a crowd of enablers who will helpfully assure you that you're OK and your heart is in the right place, etc., etc. (That can't possibly be true of *everyone* who reads you, but I suspect it will be true of enough that you will feel entitled to continue as you are.)

    The irony is that even in my savage criticisms, I have been more truly your friend than the enablers I spoke of. You could, if you wished, come out of your small, simplistic world, and think like an adult. But I think you're too committed to avoiding that for such a thing to be likely ever to happen. Thanks for listening.

  10. At least we can both agree that this is fruitless. you have made your point with breath taking clarity. In the future I will be only responding to discussion points. Thanks.

  11. Michael, it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to continue removing all doubt. Your sanctimoniousness is insufferable.

  12. Actually, Jeff, your own attitude reminds me of a former colleague who spent a week in Hong Kong years ago. When she returned, I asked her how she liked it.

    She said, rather doubtfully, "Well, it was OK, I guess, but...good God, all those *Orientals!*"

    Is she related to you?

  13. >it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to continue removing all doubt.

    You're so right. That is why I suggested you stop posting.

    Jeremiah 5:3.

  14. Thirteen-year-old Darius Simmons was shot to death by his 76-year-old white neighbor as Darius stood unarmed, with his hands in the air.

    But that's OK, because as your post said, at least it won't happen "often," will it, Jeff? And besides, we can call Darius a "child," but who knows how dangerous children can be?

    Tell me, Jeff: have you ever wondered what it would be like *not* to be an ignorant, simple-minded, 57-year-old bigot masquerading as a minister of the Gospel? Just wondering.

  15. As posted by Josh Meyer a few days ago..."Yesterday, as I locked my car to run into a gas station to get a drink. I noticed a young black man in the car next to me, window down, not appearing to be very friendly. I always lock my car regardless of where I go or who I'm around. Needless to say in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder it got me thinking, "did that innocent black kid in the car next to me feel like I locked my doors because of him?" I wondered how it must feel to be profiled on a regular basis. I've done it myself, I KNOW it happens. In the same return I thought, "I wonder if he thinks I'm just like every other white fellow that's paranoid of black people?" As I went inside I thought what could I do personally to help break these ridiculous stereotypes down. Then, it hit me. I was thirsty. Needless to say I walked out with two drinks instead of one. I walked to the car, turned around and said, "Man, it's hot out here, I bought you a drink too!" The air was thick, then he smiled and said, "Thanks, I was out here dying with no AC, no one has ever done that for me before"! We shook hands and exchanged a "Have a great day" and I was on my merry way. I said all that to say, What can you do today to help tear down divisions in this world we all share? We gotta start somewhere. Start now, be present and aware of your surroundings. Maybe if we put as much thought into breaking down walls as we do how we could escape a scenario, shoot someone, defend ourselves etc. we could make the world a better place."

    "You may think I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

    I am a dreamer too and like Mr. Meyer, I happen to believe that perception is everything (a point I believe Jeff was trying to make). I have my perceptions, Jeff has his, and Michael Huggins certainly has his. I had the priveledge of working alongside Jeff with those inner city youth for many years. When you are sometimes saving each others' lives, you get to know one another pretty well. I happen to believe in some things that Jeff does not and he believes strongly in some things that I do not. Somehow, that is okay. I know Jeff to be many things and a bigot is not one of them. Mr. Huggins may certainly perceive me to be one of the "enablers". That's okay too, because I perceive him to be an extremely angry man. None the less, I am one of a few bleeding heart liberals living in the vey deep south who believes that true change and constructive criticism comes from an honest, open dialogue, not maligning insults that cause division. True change also comes from working and serving and living with people of many skin colors and beliefs and perceptions. I have a suspicion that Jeff would want to add worship and prayer in that list as well. Josh Meyer seems to believe that change might just start by purchasing someone a coke on a hot day.

    I wonder what would have happened if Zimmerman had had the attitude of Josh Meyer. Would Trayvon Martin be alive? I also wonder what would happen in Chicago if the residents there had Mr. Meyer's attitude. Would hundreds of people still be alive? The above exchange makes me wonder how things might be different if Michael Huggins approached people with that same attitude of trying to break down the barriers instead of intensifying them. I don't know the answers to these questions. I do know that I am a dreamer and I CAN'T be the only one.

  16. >I wonder what would have happened if Zimmerman had had the attitude of Josh Meyer.

    As do I, and that was part of what informed my arguments.

    >The above exchange makes me wonder how things might be different if Michael Huggins approached people with that same attitude of trying to break down the barriers instead of intensifying them.

    The two cases aren't comparable. To take your scenario, if Josh Meyer had walked out, seen the black kid, called the police, been told not to interfere, had started knocking on the kid's car anyway, demanding that he roll the window down and show ID, and if the whole thing had resulted in a scenario in which the black kid was shot to death...

    ...and if, after that, some "fair and balanced" observer had made a blog post, as the owner of this blog did, to the effect that blacks kill each other a lot, that citizens ought to be alert, that blacks could take it as "good news" that this sort of thing wouldn't happen often, and that even young people could be quite dangerous...

    I would react as I did. And would wish you had done the same, Stephanie. Surely the need for such a response is obvious. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  17. Stephanie,THANK YOU! that really is helpful. If you are going to be a dreamer, might as well have beautiful dreams. A dream which Meyer showed is possible! Last night as I reflected upon the long exchange above it occured to me that the best thing to do is address the issue by reaching out to heal divisions. Our church does that with our work with innercity kids, not just financial support but also relationships. But what Meyer did was really the key. He did something that no one else had ever done for that young man. wow. I always lock my car doors, as does my wife. The one time she didn't a man opened the door, terrorized my young daughter and stole her purse and identity. we spent years dealing with the aftermath of that. However, it is good to see beyond a sensible act to wonder what the perception would be to others. He is a wonderful example of someone keeping in mind all angles but not being limited by his own perceptions. Once more, thanks for that really helpful input!

  18. Just for the record: I'll say this one last time, and this really will be my last post. Anyway, Jeff, you'll delete it, so no one need ever know I said this.

    I reread your original post again this morning, and it was even worse than I had realized originally--I hadn't fully focused on your implication that blacks might be swayed by a media circus or your inane digression on the training tapes with OJ's image on them.

    What I said about you was correct, Jeff. You are a smug, simple-minded, ignorant, bigoted fool of 57. You are an abject disgrace as a minister, and if you had any self-awareness or integrity, you would admit this publicly and resign. Anyone who can read your post and not immediately feel like throwing up is as much a part of the problem as you are. And that includes any of your gullible "hopeful" friends. I leave you to your folly and your self-complacency in it.

    1. As a southern member of the human race I rarely encounter the vitriol of a person like Michael Huggins but when I have I associated it with a blind man in a room of sharp knives. Your words are biased towards your own convictions and that's fine but you sir are not everyone, thank God! Why don't you use your own words to try and convince others of your own convictions instead of trying to change the convictions of others with your slander and, quite honestly, hate. Jeff, so much of what you said is true and I appreciate your viewpoints in a society that has fallen far away from the principles and examples of Christ. Unfortunately history has shown us clearly how entire civilizations have failed due to people who are only concerned about their own viewpoints and well being (i.e. Hitler, Pol Pot, etc.). It is my strong desire that this is not our ultimate destination and that somewhere along the way we can find a road that brings hope into our lives and those around us rather than despair.

  19. President Obama shared poignantly and painfully the identification he felt to Trayvon. I appreciated the insight he provided and hope it can inform all discussion of this case, even more so the reflections on the issue of race in our society. He cautioned that politics is a difficult venue to discuss it.
    Charles Barkley, a Black man, also had an insight to offer. While he chose to discuss the broader issue of racism (that in his experience both blacks and whites are racist) he pointed out that media was a poor context for such discussions. He believes that it allows extremists on both sides to hijack the discussion.
    Should white people view black all young men as dangerous? Should black young men view all policemen as dangerous? Should we assume that crime is always and only commmitted by blacks? should we think that white folks and their prejudice is the sole problem? no, no, no, no.
    Life is multi-sided. In a discussion on NPR Friday one contributor to the discussion, a Puerto Rican, admitted his pain in being profiled. He also said he got mad at the young Puerto Ricans whose behaviors compounded this view point. He was ill treated for saying it, but I think he has a right to his opinion.
    I thnk Zimmerman should probably have gotten convicted for manslaughter (based on my limited knowledge of the trial). I think he should not have carried the gun into the confrontation. I think he should not have been there.

  20. However, I did not sit in the trial and I so not know if the law indicates otherwise.
    What I do know is people experience all manner of things which lead to assumptions. I am a priest so many people connect me to child abuse. I see them look at me as they walk with their kids and I wonder if they think I am a predator. Who do I blame? The media for making sure that the report on sex abuse focus on priests? The church leaders for mishandling it? The priests who did the foul acts? Yes all of them. I do not like be considered a danger to children, but I know what motivates some people to do it.

    Are all policemen abusive, trigger happy racists? No, but I get why some folks teach their sons to be very careful when confronted by the police.

    When my wife almost missed the plane because security was double checking her and my baby's formula that seemed silly to me. Statistically, moms and babies are not the prime terror threat. They are not even second or third on the list. Does this justify prejudice? No, but it does make me wonder...

    The opinions we have are shaped by assumptions. How we heard the verdict is shaped by what we believe. Everyone needs empathy and insight. Everyone. Even if you are right and someone else is wrong if we are going to improve things it will take all of us.