on racism, skittles & listening

I have an interesting set of facebook friends. I like to think they’re pretty diverse. study abroad friends from costa rica, peruvian friends from my time there, white friends, black friends, liberal friends, conservative friends, gay friends, straight friends… people with widely different sets of beliefs & values. I love this. a lot of people get annoyed when a major, controversial news event happens (DOMA, texas abortion bill, etc) and their facebook friends start spouting off about it, but I usually really enjoy it. ok, I did unfriend a couple of people over the 2012 election. but, although I do wish some people would communicate in more caring ways, I truly like seeing so many perspectives represented in my news feed.

last week, when the results of the zimmerman trial came out, I scrolled through my facebook feed shortly after. there were a variety of responses–some inflammatory, some kind. but as I kept scrolling I noticed something that blew my mind. every single black friend who was featured in my feed was expressing disappointment in the verdict, sympathy for the family or perhaps anger at the systematic injustice he or she believes this trial represents. every single white friend featured in my feed sided with the court, expressed happiness at the justice he or she believed was served.

what I was the most taken aback by, though, wasn’t the difference of opinion, but the seeming lack of a willingness to even consider “the other side”‘s point of view. a lot of my black friends were speaking from a point of emotion (totally understandable), while a lot of my white friends seemed to be taking a “just the facts, please” approach, ignoring the personal thoughts and feelings that were going on. I know my facebook feed is not an appropriate sampling of america. & I’m sure I have friends who hold differing opinions who kept silent on facebook. but when things look like that, something is very wrong.

I think in America we like to think we’re past racial unrest. we can’t admit to personal prejudice–it’s 2013, after all. so we tend to stay real quiet until something like this happens & then all that stuff that’s been breeding silently underneath explodes up to the surface. and that’s dangerous. any marriage counselor will tell you that you have to speak up, you can’t keep silent about problems in your marriage. & when your partner speaks up about a perceived problem, you listen. even if you disagree. otherwise things are likely to explode when you least expect it.

the trayvon martin case is a total tragedy, any way you look at it: an innocent kid dead before his high school graduation, families devastated, & a nation very emphatically divided. if we only learn one thing from trayvon, I hope it’s this: it might be 2013, but we can’t pretend this isn’t happening. we need to talk about privilege, about injustice, and yes–we need to talk about race. we need to talk about it at church, at school, at home… with our grandparents, our parents, & our kids.

but far more importantly, we need to listen to people of other races talk about race, privilege, & injustice. because when we don’t talk to one another, when we don’t listen to one another, when we don’t try to understand before we fire off the gun or the facebook status… people get hurt. sometimes people even die. & more often than not, they just have skittles in their pockets.

p.s. I read lots of articles following the verdict.
& these are my top three must-reads:
1. on what privileged christians can learn for the case
2. “the church MUST model the way out of the racial abyss
3. the trial is over. should we move on?

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One Response to on racism, skittles & listening

  1. Well said, Ruth Ann. We also need to consider whether Stand Your Ground laws are compatible with “turn the other cheek”.

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