“They always get away”: Race and the Justness of God

“They always get away.”  This is what George Zimmerman said to the 9-1-1 operator on the night that he killed seventeen year old Trayvon Martin.  Certainly, he was having a conversation with the operator.  But, he was also repeating an assumption that is attached to a racial narrative with a long and troubling history in America.  He was participating in two realities– one of which drove him to murder.  There was a sense of injustice, of disappointment with the track record of good when compared to that of evil.  It seemed as if evil, which Mr. Martin represented that night, always won.  And Zimmerman was not going to let it happen this time.  Mr. Martin would not get away (with it) or from him.

It is a story that he shares with most Americans which began with the belief that America was and is the “Promised Land” that belonged to “us” even though “they” were here.  It is the narrative that justifies the injustice of the rape, murder, enslavement and oppression of “other” people in order to bless “our” people.  His conversation is apart of the troubling dialogue that American Christians have with each other very often using the Bible as their reference.  The theological ground upon which we stand shifts to support the unhealthy weight of race and racism.

It is the belief that the other socially constructed race always gets away with wrong- doing, that either or both society and God favor “them” over “us.”  We, American Christians, who believe in the goodness and ultimate will of God also believe that God allows persons to sin against others without punishment because of their socially constructed race.  We believe that God lets persons get away with evil because God likes one cultural group more than another.  But, God has no favorites and we as believers are all chosen (Romans 2.11; First Peter 2.9).

While there are protests in the streets of many American cities, I would call for us to turn that protest inward.  I assure you that destroying property and stealing products may momentarily relieve the anger and disappointment that some of us feel due to the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Mr. Zimmerman but it will not bring about lasting change.  Broken windows will be replaced and the products will be reproduced.  And our actions do not address the heart of the matter.  Mr. Zimmerman’s words were but a repetition of our own.

We, as believers, need to march within the cities of our souls and overturn the injustice system inside of us that says that God is somehow influenced by race and racism or changes His attributes to suit His creatures, that God willfully neglects His duties as Judge of all people because He is socially colored white and thus, privileged to do so.  Or, the belief that God is only on the side of the socially oppressed as if we are not all spiritually oppressed.  That we can determine whose side God is on and which cultural group God is with simply by looking at the social coloring of skin.  That our socially constructed race exempts us from our tendency to sin and changes our fallen nature so that we are able to judge God.

We should not allow race to get away with changing our theology to suit our racialized needs and hopes, to justify our conclusions about persons we cannot not see clearly because of the dark night of race/ racism, to question the justice of God who does not allow race as a witness for the prosecution or the defense in His court.

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2 thoughts on ““They always get away”: Race and the Justness of God

  1. Starlette, thanks for your insight, for which you are right. However, I have to admit that my consciousness will not allow me to release the thought that, “that they always get away”. It is hard to live in this country, regardless of what the jury said, and not see the “race card” played in just about all that we do. For centuries “they” got away. When they brought us to this land by force and not by choice, they got away. When they killed millions of our people in “the middle passage”, they got away. When they forced us to serve as slaves and not servants, they got away. When they punished us for trying to get an education and develop our God given minds, they got away. How much more do I have to say? George Zimmerman got away because a jury of his peers and not Trayvon’s. peers, have been culturally predisposed to believe that he deserved to get away, because his life was more valuable than that of Trayvon’s or any person of color, who did not look like them. I am troubled, but not surprised that “he got away”.

    1. Dr. Wood, thank you so much for your comment and your courageous honesty. “They” may get away from our judgments but none of us can escape the judgment of God. It is for this reason that I pray for God’s grace and mercy for all of us.

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