How Does A Person Of Color Prove That They Are American?

Since the Supreme Court heard arguments about SB1070 yesterday, I thought of this question:

How does a person of color prove that they are an American?

I’m black and can speak fairly reasonable Spanish (and understand it better than I speak it). Should I go to Arizona for GA?

Doesn’t Arizona have a “Birther” law? If there are some in Arizona who believe that the birth certificate of the President of the United States is invalid, what will they do to an ordinary person of color?

How does a person of color prove that they are an American?

Are Black People Ever Not-Threatening?…Thinking About The Apology To Trayvon Martin’s Family

At his bond hearing yesterday, George Zimmerman—in his apology to Trayvon Martin’s parents—said, “I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a bit younger than I am, and  I did not know if he was armed or not.”

Ok…let’s imagine the situation wherein Trayvon has more than his bag of Skittles and Arizona Tea. Nothing else in the situation changes. Have you imagined it? Now here’s the question:

So what?

Because it seems as if Trayvon was in the ultimate catch-22—in reality he was unarmed, walking down the street, and deemed suspicious. Yet had Trayvon had anything that could have been perceived as a weapon he would have been deemed suspicious. No matter what, on Feb. 26th, Trayvon was going to be deemed suspicious.

Is there ever a point in which a black person—primarily men—is NOT a threat or suspicious when walking down the street?

Ann Romney, Hilary Rosen and the Question That Needs To Be Asked

In watching the analysis of the Hilary Rosen-Ann Romney matter, I was trying to figure out why what neither side was saying resonated with me. So I ask this question: doesn’t this whole conversation leave out a large minority of women (if not the majority of women)—namely lower-income women and/or women of color?

In other words…isn’t this really an argument between June Clever and Murphy Brown which leaves out Roseanne and Julia (I am assuming you remember all of the shows these characters are from)?

How Much Is A Black Life Worth? Today It Seems To Be Worth A Murder Charge In One Case

Theodore Parker, that 19th century Unitarian minister that you hear about sometimes, said in 1853:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience.  And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

45 days my brothers and sisters. 45 days. 45 days of not understanding why for the family of a child who was killed 100 yards from home. 45 days to wait for some semblance of justice.

One hour ago Angela Corey, Special Prosecutor in the case of Trayvon Martin, filed 2nd-degree murder charges against George Zimmerman.

So we have an answer—at least for today—about how much a young black man’s life is worth. Today it’s worth a murder charge.  


“I Died But I Did Not Leave Them.”…Trayvon Martin, the Tulsa Shooting Victims and the Idea of Resurrection

 At the end of her show on March 17, Melissa Harris-Perry (now a member of First Unitarian-New Orleans) said the following:

      His name is Trayvon Martin. When innocent children are killed; when their parents are left to wonder if their children’s lives matter–at all, at least we can remember their names.

 Well…on Friday night in Tulsa three men lost their lives and two others were shot in a senseless act. So it looks like we have to change Melissa’s statement.

      His name is Dannaer Fields/Bobby Clark/William Allen. When innocent people are killed; when their families are left wonder if their lives matter–at all, at least we can remember their names.

Yesterday was Easter–the day, when celebrated right, honors another innocent man who died. Yet according to the story, that man rose from the grave. However, if one looks at the Gospel of Mark’s version of the story, there is a different picture presented:

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 The idea of resurrection is hard to get one’s head around. But as the Rev. Earl Holt once said, “Resurrection does not mean resuscitation.” Too often we liberal religious folk keep wanting to make resurrection=resuscitation, and miss the real power that resurrection, and the story of Jesus’ resurrection, really gives.

 Rita Nakashima Brock, co-author of Proverbs of Ashes and Saving Paradise, worte a book years ago entitled Journeys By Heart. I reccommend it heartily. In it she proposes that the real power of the resurrection was in the community. No community—resurrection would have been a different thing.

 In 1997, long before I knew there was a book called Journeys By Heart, I read The Red Tent. And it is because of The Red Tent that I think about resurrection differently. I also think that if we liberal religious folk talked about resurrection this way, there would be a lot less anxiety in UU congregations about how to talk about Easter and why we should celebrate it.

 So here’s the part of The Red Tent that we should look at Easter through. For those of you familiar with the book, this comes at the end when Dinah dies.

 I died but I did not leave them.

 There is no magic to immortality.

In Egypt, I loved the perfume of the lotus. A flower would bloom in the pool at dawn, filling the entire garden with a blue musk so powerful it seemed that even the fish and ducks would swoon. By night, the flower might wither but the perfume lasted, Fainter and fainter, but never quite gone. Even many days later, the lotus remained in the garden. Months would pass and a bee would alight near the spot where the lotus has blossomed, and its essence was released again, momentary but undeniable.

Egypt loved the lotus because it never dies. It is the same for people who are loved. Thus can something as insignificant as a name—two syllables, one high, one sweet—summon up the innumerable smiles and tears, sighs and dreams of a human life.

If you sit on the bank of a river, you see only a small part of its surface. And yet, the water before your eyes is proof of unknowable depths. My heart brims with thanks for the kindness you have shown me by sitting on the bank of this river, by visiting the echoes of my name.

Blessings on your eyes and on your children. Blessings on the ground beneath you. Wherever you walk, I go with you.

 They have died but they have not left us. Wherever we go, they—Trayvon Martin, Dannaer Fields, Bobby Clark, William Allen—go with us.

A 40 Days Question…Is It Even Possible To Talk About Race In America?

It’s been 40 days since Trayvon Martin was shot and died in Sanford, Florida (it’s rather weird to think about the fact that Trayvon has been dead the same number of days that Lent lasts). And if the recent polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center are to be believed, African Americans and Caucasians view this situation in vastly different ways.

So this begs the question…in the United States, is it even possible to talk about race anymore? Aren’t most African Americans and Caucasians living in two separate countries that makes communication across this divide more divisive than productive?

Now I don’t need comments that the issue of race in the U.S. is more than black and white. I know that. But if this country can’t talk about the most enduring race issue (aside from Native American and Caucasian) in a productive way, then will it ever be able to talk about any other race relations.

“To Be Crying For a Black Man Was So Taboo”…Tom Robinson and Trayvon Martin

So I DVR’ed “Harper Lee: Hey Boo” Monday night and watched it late last night. A little over an hour into the show, Diane McWhorter (author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama The Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution) talks about being upset that Tom Robinson was not going to be found not guilty and then getting upset about being upset. At the end of her little segment she says “to be crying for a black man was so taboo…” Her saying that brought to mind an article I read on the Sojourners website with the title “SBC’s Richard Land Says Obama,  Jackson, Sharpton ‘Exploiting’ Trayvon Martin’s Death” and the news of a Pew survey that many whites are tired of the coverage of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have issues with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and take breaks from the coverage, but why is the call for justice for Trayvon Martin somehow exploitive yet when people were calling for justice for Caylee Anthony somehow that’s not exploitive?  

Wasn’t Harper Lee perceptive? Just how far have we come from the time that To Kill A Mockingbird is set? From the time that it was published? Is is still a taboo for be crying for a black man? If so, why?

“O God, do not be far from me”…Holy Tuesday Lectionary

Today’s lectionary passage is Psalm 71:1-14.

1 In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
   let me never be put to shame.
2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
   incline your ear to me and save me.
3 Be to me a rock of refuge,
   a strong fortress,* to save me,
   for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
   from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
5 For you, O Lord, are my hope,
   my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
   it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.
7 I have been like a portent to many,
   but you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
   and with your glory all day long.
9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
   do not forsake me when my strength is spent.
10 For my enemies speak concerning me,
   and those who watch for my life consult together.
11 They say, ‘Pursue and seize that person
   whom God has forsaken,
   for there is no one to deliver.’
12 O God, do not be far from me;
   O my God, make haste to help me!
13 Let my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
   let those who seek to hurt me
   be covered with scorn and disgrace.
14 But I will hope continually,
   and will praise you yet more and more.

What happens when one feels that G-d is far away? The beginning of the psalm says that its author takes refuge in the Lord, yet a few verses later begs G-d to not be far away. What does it mean to take refuge? And what happens when that refuge seems to to be far from you?


Holy Monday Lectionary and Trayvon Martin

Today’s lectionary selection if from Isaiah 42:1-9.

42:1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
   my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
   he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,
   or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
   and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
   he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be crushed
   until he has established justice in the earth;
   and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
5 Thus says God, the Lord,
   who created the heavens and stretched them out,
   who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
   and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
   I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,*
   a light to the nations,
7   to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
   from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the Lord, that is my name;
   my glory I give to no other,
   nor my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have come to pass,
   and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
   I tell you of them.

It has been 36 days since a young man armed with Skittles and Arizona Tea was shot while walking back to the home  where he was staying in Sanford, Florida. His name is Trayvon Martin.

We know who killed him; his name is George Zimmerman. And this is his 36th day of freedom since that killing.

At the beginning of this, who was it that was calling for justice? His parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin.    

No parent should have to call in outside forces to bring about the glimmer of hope that justice might happen. Yet too many parents have to do just that. Too often their pleas are not heard.

Who is the one who carries the spirit of G-d and brings justice? Is it you? Is it me?

“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress”…Passion Sunday Lectionary Reflection on Trayvon Martin

As today is the start of Holy Week, my writing about Trayvon Martin will be using as a point of departure either the Hebrew Scriptures passage or Psalm from the daily lectionary. Today’s reflection is taken from Psalm 31:9-16.

9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
   my eye wastes away from grief,
   my soul and body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
   and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
   and my bones waste away.
11 I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
   a horror to my neighbours,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
   those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
   I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
   terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me,
   as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
   I say, ‘You are my God.’
15 My times are in your hand;
   deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16 Let your face shine upon your servant;
   save me in your steadfast love.

There is muchdistress andgrief in the land. There is much terror in the land. Where do those who are living in the midst of grief, terror and injustice turn? Where are they receiving comfort? Where do their souls find relief?

How many only have G-d to hold onto?

What are our congregations doing to be G-d’s eyes and hands and ears?