Three days have passed since George Zimmerman was acquitted of charges stemming from the death of Trayvon Martin. And I am still livid. The feelings of betrayal and despair brought on by the failure of the American justice system have not subsided. Rallying in Union Square and signing petition after petition to encourage the Department of Justice to bring criminal civil rights violation charges against Zimmerman have not mitigated the hurt that this "not guilty" verdict has stirred up, the message that in America, Michael Vick's dogs and Plaxico Burress's thigh are worth more than your entire Black life.
What are we supposed to do with this knowledge?
For some, this verdict caused a fresh injury, altering and redefining their realities forever. For others, it just picked the scab off of a very old wound. Systemic racism has existed in America since long before America's founding and probably always will. So what are we supposed to do with this anger?
How can we possibly keep the faith knowing that the anger we feel today is actually just the compressed, recycled, inherited anger of generations of our ancestors, unable to rest in peace?
How do you keep the faith knowing that the people whom systemic racism was designed to protect and exalt, invalidate and dismiss our right to the pure outrage that their system has caused?
How do you stay hopeful when you hear news outlets asking questions like "What could Trayvon have done differently?" Or when people find the verdict fair, "cause O.J.," or when White people suddenly care about dead Black boys in Chicago, if only to avoid any real discussions of institutionalized racism?
Or when George Zimmerman not only gets his gun back and a rubber stamp to kill again, but also gets rewarded for killing an unarmed Black child, to the tune of $300,000?
And when the one person you hoped would finally, finally, stand up and speak out against this grave miscarriage of justice–the first Black president of the United States–doesn't, but simply side-steps the racism at the heart of this case as if it doesn't exist, in favor of his typical Black people, take responsibility for yourselves statement, how in the world can we possibly keep the faith?!
I can only take a cue from Sybrina Fulton, the one to whom Trayvon Martin was never a symbol, but a son. The one whose pain is greater than all of our anger combined. Just after the man who killed her child walked away unscathed, she tweeted:
"Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control. […] In the name of Jesus!!!"
And then I remember that we keep our faith when we're fed up because we have absolutely nothing left. When the injustice system works exactly the way it was designed to and all the petitions in the world fail, all the marches and the rallies don't bring about the relief we seek, all the people we look to fail to speak up in our defense, we realize, as Ms. Fulton has, that in our darkest hour, "You are all that I have."
My faith persists because it was never built on the shaky foundation of people's whims or a system's willingness to dismantle itself. It was never built on the ability of 6 non-Black women to picture Trayvon Martin as their son or a president's courage to tell the truth and shame the devil. And much like our anger, that kind of deep-rooted faith is our inheritance from our ancestors.
Our ancestors stood on the promise of God: "Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap." They stood on the promise of God, that vengeance is His and He shall repay it. They stood on those words so that, with them in mind, we could stand. The only reason we survive today is because of the faith of the fed up.
So what choice do we have but to stand, reinvigorated to turn our righteous anger into action? To trust that God's justice will come to pass–whether we get to see it or not–while simultaneously working to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. With a new sense of urgency, and a renewed hope, we can refuse to be passive observers of injustice, but instead fight to make the world more just, more loving and more peaceful, standing on the promises of God:
"Never tire of doing what is right. For at the appropriate time, we will reap a harvest if we do not grow weary and give up."
We are going to get weary sometimes. We are going to question what the point of it all is, sometimes. It is human for us to say, "Enough is enough," and "I can't take anymore! I don't want to take anymore! I shouldn't have to take anymore!" But Christ has promised us rest for our weary souls. Never forget: God has not brought us this far to leave us.
The battles we face may seem incredibly lonely, but we are not ever alone in this. We must not give up. Our ancestors can not have fought in vain. Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton can not have lost their child in vain.
To donate to the Trayvon Martin Foundation click here or text TMF to 50555.
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