The World in Black and White?

If you’ve been following the news at all recently, you’re probably aware of the George Zimmerman trial that is taking place in Florida right now. Understand that I’m not writing to assert what I believe happened that night in February, 2012. I honestly don’t know what happened. And, I can’t pretend that I do. But, following the trial and tracking the public’s reaction has really got me thinking about the state of our society as it relates to race and racial identity.

What I’m observing seems to be very stark differences in public opinion with ideas split down the middle between “Black America” (rallying behind Trayvon Martin’s family) and “White America” (standing in support of George Zimmerman). Why is that? Why aren’t there more White people that see and support the Martin’s side of the story? And, why aren’t there more Black people that support Zimmerman? If we are really able to form unbiased opinions about things, why isn’t there more racial overlap?  Does it even matter? I think it does, because I think it sheds light on the rather unfortunate state of our society. At this point in human history, I expected that we would be able to look at cases like this one as more than just a racial debate. I am severely disappointed.

I find it so surprising that, in 2013, we still are bound by archaic ideas about race and identity. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that cultural heritage is extremely important in an individual’s construction of their identity. But, when an individual identifies so strongly with a subgroup of human culture, don’t they risk being blinded to the beauty of the threadwork that forms the tapestry humanity?

I wonder at what point we will, as a whole, be able to take off the view-obstructing lenses of racism and just see things as they are. When will we be able to peel off the labels of ‘White’, ‘Black’, or whatever they may be and just be human?

Now, I realize that the environment in which I grew up played a role in my understanding and perception of the world. And, because I’m a White male, I enjoy the benefits afforded to me as a majority in almost every circumstance. So, I get it. I don’t really know what it’s like to experience life as a minority. I understand that. But, at some point, I still have to take responsibility for my own thoughts and perceptions. At some point, I have to believe things – not because of the color of my skin, but because I know them to be true. As a Christian, I have to scrub my ideals against Scripture and reject anything that doesn’t line up.

I think that’s one of the beautiful things about faith, about a Christian worldview. It pushes us outside of ourselves. It forces us to see a bigger picture. Because Scripture teaches us that we are created in the image of God, we know that there is inherent value in human life. Skin color doesn’t affect that value. I can’t believe that I’m any better (or any worse) than anyone else, because we’re all image-bearers of our Creator.

So, where do we go from here? What role can we play in ending the perpetuation of ignorant ideas about race and racial identity? I can’t pretend to know that answer to this question, but I suspect it has a lot to do with love. Tell me, what do you propose? How do you think we can have the greatest impact?

-(eric)

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