The most egregious travesty of justice was NBC’s admitted editing of Zimmerman’s 911 call to make it sound far more incriminating than it was. This type of “reporting” led to a complete loss of perspective, where some have actually compared Martin’s death to the slaying of Emmett Till. “Trayvon Martin certainly is the Emmett Till of the hoodie generation,” says Michael Skolnik, president of GlobalGrind.
No matter how deeply moved you are by the Trayvon Martin tragedy, it is not in the same category as Emmett Till’s murder. Till was just 14 years old in 1955 when he travelled from his native Chicago -- where he attended an integrated school -- to visit his extended family in Mississippi. He was apparently dared by some friends to speak to (or possibly flirt with) a young white woman who ran a local grocery store.
The young woman’s husband and brother kidnapped Till, beat and tortured him, gouged out one eye, shot him through the head, tied a weight around his neck with barbed wire and threw his body into a river. Till’s murderers were acquitted of any wrongdoing, and later -- when it was clear they could not be prosecuted -- sold their story to a magazine in 1956. They admitted brutalizing and murdering Till but maintained they had done nothing wrong.
We are certainly not living in Emmett Till’s Mississippi anymore. However, most blacks believe that Zimmerman pursued and gunned down Martin without any provocation, because they want to give Martin the benefit of the doubt that they feel is too often unfairly withheld from black men. Those who are naturally more sympathetic to Zimmerman should extend understanding to those who are experiencing this case personally. It is that kind of understanding that can help bring the healing the entire nation needs.
Where do we go from here? I believe that it’s time for the Church to lead a moral and ethical revolution to fulfill Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream. This is not the exclusive work of the black community or the white community. Whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians must labor together. Our unifying belief in Jesus Christ, the Bible and the same worldview will help us turn this corner. This is not the domain of government; it’s the business of the Church. In recent days Bill O’Reilly has listed a series of challenges to the black community to take responsibility to turn its fortunes around. His analysis is right, but if this transformation is going to be accomplished in the next 40 years, it will take the multi-ethnic, unified Church to make it happen.
I am committed to making this change happen. I know I also speak for thousands of church leaders. We simply need a plan. In my next column, I will explore more about how this can happen.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
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