Many of us have had the same reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin. We can hardly stand to read about it, see his face or engage the story because it is so painful. We have wept our way through some of the story because it is one of those things that we can barely stand to face -- and yet we can’t stand not to face it.
What is this about? We all know that it could have been our sons and for some reason that we cannot name, it wasn’t. Those of us who are African American know how much we have told our sons that they have to be careful not to cross any lines that might cause them to appear out of the ordinary enough to warrant attention from those whites who might misuse their power against them. Presently, we are challenged to forget the dangers that continue to exist for young black people, especially males, who can be deemed suspicious looking, but we cannot afford to forget.
Fear is such a dangerous dynamic in our country today as it has been since our beginning. The fear that we continue to have toward one another and try to manage without honestly acknowledging it will continue to lead us down the path of death and destruction. Fear cannot be managed by denial and it will not go away until it is faced.
Whether we are reflecting upon the fears that confront us in our daily lives or the collective fears that seem to have so much power at the moment in our community life, it is all the same. The fear has to be named and it has to be resisted or else it will take us over and rule our behavior. Fear feeds upon itself.
It is not surprising that we have gotten so focused upon guns and gun ownership in this country. We think that locks and guns will make us secure and save us from the fear that is in our hearts and souls, but it continues to live an abundant life in spite of our arsenals that we gather and the many gates and locks we erect to protect ourselves.
I hope that all of the readers of this column will understand that I am quite aware there are those who do not intend to do what is right and they can be found in all races and classes. But we have to find better ways to discern who they are and to capture our fear generated imaginations and put that energy to work in creating a sense of security and faith which does not need violence.
At the moment, I am not really concerned about all of the particular details of what happened in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, because none of it should have happened. A child walking in a neighborhood should not have to worry about being labeled as looking suspicious because he happens to be black and wearing a hoodie. This sorry business of projecting our fears onto others because they do not look as we think they should cannot be tolerated in our communities.
Our faith communities and all people with any type of understanding about the connection of human beings to one another need to stand against racism, classism, ableism. Homophobia, sexism and all of the other labels we use to divide ourselves and to retard the formation of true community.
Each of us has to look in our own heart and see what we are being asked to do to help create a world where all of our children can be safe. We need to search our souls, and if we find violence there, we need to seek liberation from it and search for a path of courage that can lead to nonviolence. This work belongs to all of us.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.