Thursday, July 25, 2013

Classism in America

With the recent verdict declaring George Zimmerman not guilty of murder in the killing of Trevon Martin, there’s been a lot of talk about racism in America. These are good discussions to have, but missing from much of rhetoric is another “ism”, classism. Let me give you a few examples of classism:

Suppose you were walking down a city street late at night, and a young black guy in a hoodie and jeans approaches you. Would you be apprehensive? Most likely you would.

Now, suppose you are on the same street late at night and a well-dressed young black man approaches you. Would you be apprehensive? Most likely you would not.

What’s the difference? The well-dressed young man is perceived to be of a better class and therefore less likely to rob you than the supposedly lower class guy. We trust better dressed clean-cut people of any race.

My guess is that if Trevon hadn’t been wearing a hoodie, he might not have been followed by Zimmerman. Wearing a hoodie that hides your face automatically makes you suspect in some people’s minds.

But dress isn’t everything. As we saw, we’d be apprehensive if a black guy in hoodie and jeans approached us late at night on a city street. Now suppose we noticed that he’s carrying a Bible. Would we be less apprehensive? I suspect we would.

While racism in various forms certainly does exist, so do other “isms” that are just as pernicious. Why do we have such persistent prejudices? It’s the fallen human condition. If you had a society in which the inhabitants were homogeneous except for the color of their eyes, do you think there would be no prejudice? My guess is that the brown-eyed people would hate the blue-eyed people, and vice-versa.

As long as we keep our eyes (no matter what color) on people and not on God, we’ll fall short. As long as we ignore God’s command (found in various forms in most religions) to “love your neighbor” and “do unto others” then we’ll have prejudice, persecution, tribalism, and war.

Let’s keep our eyes on God, who created heaven and earth (and it was good), and made human beings in his image.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Zimmerman Verdict

A lot has been written recently about the verdict of “not guilty” for George Zimmerman. Nevertheless, I would like to add my two cents’ worth concerning the case.

First of all, I do believe Zimmerman was profiling Martin. The young man was wearing a hoodie, which automatically makes him suspect in some people’s eyes. Second, of course, he was black. As Martin’s father stated in an interview, if Martin hadn’t been black this whole thing would not have occurred.

Second, I believe that Zimmerman was the aggressor in that he followed Martin when he was told not to do so by the 911 operator. Who ended up on top of whom is almost immaterial, because Zimmerman continued to pursue the young man for no reason except, in Zimmerman’s eyes, Martin didn’t belong there.

So I believe that the verdict should have been manslaughter, but the jury saw it differently. Sadly, this will set back race relations in this country. Blacks will feel frustrated and will believe that there is no justice for African Americans. There are no winners in all this, just losers. Martin’s parents have lost a son, and Zimmerman’s life will never be the same.

So where do we go from here? Hopefully, this sad affair will get us thinking about our own prejudices, subtle though they may be. While we might not go out and shoot somebody, we do harbor biases that may, at least to some extent, influence our behavior and attitudes. By the way, I’m referring to biases on both sides, not just on the part of whites. Martin referring to Zimmerman as a “cracker” may not be the equivalent of the “N” word, but it does reveal some prejudice on his part as well.

I'm Back!

After a prolonged absence, I am back to blogging. I know I haven’t submitted a post for quite some time, but the last six months have been very busy. As of July 1, 2013, I retired from full-time parish ministry. Since I was no longer pastor of the church I had been serving for 11 years, my wife and I had to move out of the parsonage. Since we were downsizing, the move required a lot of decision-making as to what to keep and what to discard. So the whole preparation and packing operation took several months. By the time we moved into our new place and got settled, we were exhausted.

Now that I have more time on my hands, I would like to resume blogging, hopefully providing you with helpful insights about religion and other topics. I also have a number of projects that I want to accomplish in my retirement, and we hope to take some nice trips. So I think we will both be pretty busy for the foreseeable future. Moreover, I believe God will reveal to us what ministries he would like us to participate in. I doubt if we will be involved in any full-time ministry – after all, we are retired. But I also don’t believe God’s going to put us on the shelf. It will be interesting to see what God has in mind for the two of us. But I think now is the time to focus on getting settled in our new home as well as getting into our new routine.

Although we are not from Dutchess County originally, we like it here and decided to stay in the area. I’m looking forward to communicating with you through the blog, and hopefully providing you with some thought-provoking opinions. You may not always agree with me, and that’s fine, but I hope to provide you with some insights that you might not get anywhere else.