Saturday, July 20, 2013

Racism and Christian Compassion

I have heard an embarrassing amount of misinformation about the Trayvon/George case from fellow christians, but I think that one of the most frustrating things I've witnessed is the attempts at compassion, and the advocating of certain questionable varieties of such. Now- should this case merit our compassion, and is it our duty as christians to comfort and show compassion to those who are hurting? Of course. Always! But there is a way to do that without sacrificing truth and without disguising racism as compassion.

I hear comments like "christians should show compassion for and solidarity with Black America" and I think: Really? I was under the impression that there wasn't a Black America and a White America, but that there was just ... America. To label everyone subjectively identified as "black" as Black America (and, in this context, to assume that they view this case a certain way) is to say that all black people are part of a monolithic color group which defines them, their opinions, and their feelings. I know that I, as a white person, would be a little offended if someone made those assumptions about me, spoke about compassion and solidarity with white america as if there is such a thing, and assumed that because I am white I identify with the parties with lighter skin, regardless of the specifics of the case.

Equally frustrating is the assumption that in order to avoid the racist label, one must side with the black person, or that because a black person was killed by a hispanic person who sounded white, this is de facto a case of racism against black people. (There are plenty of examples of that without adding cases which do not apply to it, I'm sad to say.) I find the notion inconceivable that showing christian compassion equals eulogizing and misrepresenting and that siding against the closest thing to a white male in this case is automatically more compassionate. Perhaps everyone really believes in misinformation that paints the parties as a racist man and an innocent kid, (as opposed to two really, REALLY stupid men) but I find that hard to believe.

We should show compassion for the police chief (and his family) who lost his job for refusing to charge a man who he believed was innocent, and for George Zimmerman and his family- while George committed no crimes, he did not make the smart decision at a key point, and for this his life is in danger, his career wrecked, and his family in hiding. He truly deserves our compassion. The family of Trayvon deserves our compassion as well- losing a child is always horrible, no matter how old the child is, how troubled, or what the child has done. Even youths who abuse drugs and turn to crime should receive our compassion and our support, though this does not negate the consequences for their actions. We don't need to lie about who Trayvon was, or who Zimmerman is, to show them compassion. We should pray for the Zimmerman family in the shambles they are in, hope that painful but valuable lessons were learned, and help them where we can. We should pray for other young men and women who, like Trayvon, are running down a path which can only be destructive to them and their families. We need to make sure that young people who come from broken homes, who struggle with addictions, who are headed toward a life of crime, have a safe place in the Church where they may find counseling, support, and mentorship. Most of all, we should stop the racism, be it against whatever color, for it helps no one. We are all made in the image of God and equally valuable as part of God's human creation. Had the survivors been reversed, this case would have been just as tragic.

Our christian duty of compassion should extend to all, regardless of race, gender, orientation, ethnicity, location, socio-economic status, or whatever. This compassion is not incompatible with, and indeed is intimately connected to, shining truth on the situations in which we find ourselves. Divisive rhetoric from either side is not compatible with compassion, but honest evaluation of facts and issues is. Truth in love is not racism, and refusing to slow down, listen, and self-examine is not a sign of strength.

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