Pastoral Missive Concerning the Zimmerman Verdict

By the Reverend James C Simmons, M.Div, Pastor of Baber AME Church

After 16 hours of deliberation, on July 13, 2013, six jurors ruled that 29 year old George Zimmerman was justified in murdering a 17 year old, unarmed teenager named Trayvon Benjamin Martin and proved something African Americans have long known: Black life is not valued in America and often considered expendable. On July 13, 2013, history unfortunately repeated itself.

“There is nothing new under the sun” declares the Book of Ecclesiastes. On July 13, 2013, history repeated itself and Roy Bryant and JW Milam were once again acquitted of murdering Emmitt Till, a 14 year old murdered after being accused of flirting with a white woman. On July 13, 2013, history repeated itself and police chief Linwood Shull was once again acquitted of maiming Isaac Woodward, an army sergeant forcibly removed from a greyhound bus, beaten by police officers in an alleyway and permanently blinded while in thecity jail. Shull was acquitted even after he admitted to blinding Woodward. On July 13, 2013, history repeateditself and bus driver Herman Lee Council was once again acquitted of murdering Booker T Spicely, an African American solider in uniform that refused to sit in the back of the bus. On July 13, 2013, history repeated itself and countless white men that lynched black babies once again walked away free. On July 13, 2013, history unfortunately repeated itself.

Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” For African American communities this Scripture has always meant more than just providing our children Bible instruction. For African American families “train up a child in the way he should go” has also meant teachingour children how to survive in a white world. “Train up a child in the way he should go” has meant teaching black babies they have to work twice as hard just to prove themselves. “Train up a child” has meant teaching our children to immediately place both hands on the steering wheel if pulled over by the police; say “yes ma’am” and “no sir” to white persons in authority; come home when the street light comes on and never draw attention to yourself. “Train up a child” has meant teaching our children you always fit the police description.“Train up a child” has meant teaching our children how to survive in the world.

Once again, the African American community must commit itself to training our children in the way they should go. We must commit ourselves to investing in our young people and teaching them to value their education. We must commit ourselves to monitoring bills our legislators create and act responsibly to protectour community’s interest. We must commit ourselves to creating a new education paradigm that does not funnel our children through the cradle to prison the prison pipeline. We must commit ourselves to being thevillage that raises our children. We must commit ourselves to diligently working to stop history from repeating itself.