Trayvon, Dr. Land, & the "Myth" of Racism
Richard Land "overestimates" the church's progress on race relations.

On an unseasonably warm Saturday in late March, my 3-year-old son and I took the train from our Chicago neighborhood to a rally downtown for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed African American teenager who was killed in Florida a month earlier. The protest itself was predictable: calls for an investigation into the shooting mixed with intense frustrations. I was, however, surprised by one moment. Standing with my son on my shoulders, straining to hear the one of the speakers, I overheard one woman respond to a reporter's question. "Why is no one paying attention to this," she asked. "Where are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Why aren't they speaking out?"

Two weeks later, in glaring contrast to this woman's frustrations, Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, weighed in with his own opinion about Trayvon Martin's death. "[T]his situation is getting out of hand," Dr. Land opined on his radio program. "And it's going to be violent. And when there is violence it's going to be Jesse Jackson's fault. It's going to be Al Sharpton's fault." In these few sentences, and the many that followed, Dr. Land carelessly exposed the ways race continues to divide our country–and our churches.

I mean no disrespect to Dr. Land. In recent years I've been encouraged by his compassionate and theologically nuanced stance on immigration reform, making majority-culture churches aware of the struggles of immigrant Christians in our midst. His has been a cool, refreshing voice after so much partisan hot air. Yet at the very moment when Dr. Land could have used his influence to unite, he resorted instead to clichés and stereotypes, confirming to many the priority of race over creed.

Take, for example, his criticism of President Obama's remarks about Trayvon Martin's death, specifically the Presidents assertion that, "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin." Making such a statement, according to Dr. Land, only "poured gasoline on the racialist fires." (I'm aware Dr. Land may have plagiarized many of the remarks he made on his radio program from a Washington Times column. Regardless of who the words originated with, I'm assuming the opinions were his own.)

Rather than stoking some sort of collective race-based anger, the President's comments actually had the opposite affect. In one sentence he communicated to many people of color that someone in a position of power knew their grief and anger. The woman I overheard at the rally was looking for someone to make her pain known to a system that has historically overlooked and contributed to the suffering of people who look like Trayvon Martin. The President was speaking to her.

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May 03, 2012

Displaying 1–10 of 25 comments

sheerahkahn

May 26, 2012  12:53pm

Thank you Mr. Harris for giving me some information that I need to confirm. However, that being said, I also want to point out that owning a gun is not displaying your faith in G-d to the world, nor does it single you out as a "G-d fearing man." All a gun, and "stand your ground" says is that we live in a world of worldly problems filled with worldly solutions, and that gun in your hand says is that you have a worldly solution to a worldly problem.

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E Harris

May 12, 2012  6:58pm

Eric Holder, DOJ, sold American guns to Mexican drug lords, for the purpose of pretending that those guns came from American gun shops (so there would be a crackdown on American gun ownership). This same guy just happened to mention Trayvon's name, the moment the Dems push a bill that would have denied funding to states that have the "stand your ground" law. Do you see a pattern? Because the pattern keeps going on and on...even toward Arizona and the American border. The pattern is: re-distribute the guns toward America's enemies...and DENY that Americans have the right to own and use guns. And ignore (or encourage) violence to be done to Americans. Don't protect the borders. But continue to criticize Americans, SELL GUNS to America's enemies (in secret), and then don't protect the border. And when people say that you're not doing enough about the border, turn your security toward monitoring American citizens inside the border. And when Holder's "Fast and Furious" guns kill American border patrol agents? Don't investigate. Stay silent. Maybe our enemies who have the guns will get the hint. Do I sound racist now? The Trayvon story was simply a means to an end. Disarm the American people (while arming enemies), and criticize the American people at the same time, while stirring up unrest leading up to the 2012 election. But I have nothing to worry about. Our DOJ will make sure that we are safe and secure. (The same DOJ which dropped all charges against two New Black Panthers who were standing outside of a polling place in the 2008 election, holding batons; and didn't so much as investigate when the same group advertized an illegal bounty on Zimmerman's head.) The DOJ which cracks down on Americans, while REPEATEDLY selling thousands of guns to Mexican drug lords... we should trust that they are protecting us. So, I guess I should feel ok when the "stand your ground" law comes under attack, when a guy named Zimmerman isn't charged for a crime because it appears he may have abided by the law. The whole case against Zimmerman is predicated on the idea that Trayvon did not attack first. We don't know that's the case. ALL evidence so far, indicates that Trayvon did, in fact, attack first. But because of one case (whether Zimmerman was right or wrong) we're supposed to deprive the ability of ALL law-abiding Americans to protect themselves in public???

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E Harris

May 12, 2012  6:35pm

This was a fabricated story from the beginning, for the purpose of moving against the "stand your ground" laws all over this country. That was the agenda from the beginning, and the media was behind it. Inflame racial tensions, in order to incite trouble, so that it would be made a national issue, so that we would address "stand your ground" on a national level. This is why Zimmerman was described as "white" before the discovery that he in fact is more hispanic than white. So many details were made-up and lied about, I cannot fit them into one quick response. Suffice to say that 3 reporters have now been FIRED because they doctored the tape of Zimmerman's 911 call, in order to MAKE him appear racist, when the conversation does not make him appear so. Blacks were deliberately stirred up into a TIZZY over this local issue, but somehow they don't get more mad over the 93% of black killings being black-on-black. Somehow, that just doesn't make headlines. That's not tragic enough. Let's focus on the hispanic-on-black which was initially reported as "white-on-black". Let's pretend that Trayvon was this small little thing, and that Zimmerman was larger, and that Trayvon wasn't 17 years old, and entering that phase of life when you want to prove yourself and you don't take kindly to confrontation. Trayvon was 17, 6'3" and weighed only 10 lbs less than Zimmerman who was 5'8". The eye witness agrees with the injuries on Zimmerman and (the lack of injury) on Trayvon's body. The police had no probable cause for assuming that Zimmerman attacked Trayvon. What were they supposed to charge him with? But the press found a picture that was 3 years old, smoothed it out, brightened it up a little, to make Trayvon look angelic. And they found a bad picture of Zimmerman that was also from a ways back, to make him look fatter and meaner. They started trumping up the calls of "racism". They started demonizing Zimmerman, and misreporting facts about the story. And then people started hitting the streets with skittles and hoodies, after Al Sharpton showed up, pretending that that was all there was to it. But we're supposed to focus on this one incident and make it a national issue, and actually put the "stand your ground" law on trial. Right? Would that make you feel better? This whole thing was an orchestrated sham, an event that was SHOE-HORNED into a narrative that it didn't fit... for the purpose of further disarming the American public. The UN condemned a local law-enforcement decision in Florida. The president commeted on Trayvon's death (even though other Trayvons have died recently - at black hands). The Democrats recently tried to put a bill on the floor for a vote that would have denied funding to states that had "stand your ground" laws. Oh, but this is just about Trayvon. And Racism. And the White Establishment. Right? I can always count on liberal writers to write liberally, regardless of facts.

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Bill Williams

May 10, 2012  11:16pm

I have seen the photos of the back of his head, in fact. And at some point during the trail, both the prosecution and the defense will offer intepretations to explain those photos. Those interpretations will be based on evidence, and a jury will have to decide which interpretation is favored by the weight of evidence. But at this point, we don't KNOW that those wounds were caused by Mr. Martin beating Mr. Zimmerman in the head. It's pure speculation. We don't know how innocent Mr. Martin was or how guilty Mr. Zimmerman was. All I'm saying is, the call not to jump to conclusions has to go both ways! Let's try to be as objective as possible. It's certainly fine to have a theory as to what happened. But let's not present our theories as if they were indisputable facts.

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Kelly

May 10, 2012  6:02pm

If you haven't seen the photos of the back of Mr Zimmerman's head, you should check it out. The back of his head was very bloodied, and I believe he was trying to defend his life, which of course, he has every right to do. It's terrible that obama and sharpton, etc spoke out about the "innocence" of the so-called victim, and didn't wait for the facts. Obama and the others have done this several times now. It's obvious that the president of the US is doing all he can do to stir up divisiveness in this country, and it's no surprise that a large percentage of Americans think he is the worst president we have ever had. And it has nothing to do with his color, it's due to his actions and inaction. Our economy is in the tank, and he has refused things like the oil pipeline which would have generated hundreds of thousands of jobs. Every action he has taken seems to be to deliberately hurt our country so that the puppets pulling his strings can lead us to a one world government. Since you can't name any good that he has done for our country, anyone who votes for him simply because he is black is racist. We need a president who will help this country, not destroy it.

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Bill Williams

May 10, 2012  5:08pm

Jeff, I also hope that Mr. Zimmerman gets a fair trail. In our system of justice, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty; and although it doesn't always work out that way in practice (anyone remember Casey Anthony!) it is the standard to which our legal system should aspire. Having said that, we also need to remember not to judge the victim until we have all the facts. You wrote: "[Mr. Zimmerman] had some guy on top of him beating him in the head." Well, that is what Mr. Zimmerman alleges, but that is not a fact that has been established by evidence yet. It may be established as a fact at trial. Then again, it might not. But as of right now, we don't know that that is what happened. You also claimed that Mr. Martin was "out prowling in a place where he should have never been" and that he "was acting suspicious." As for the claim that he shouldn't have been there, the girlfriend of Mr. Martin's father lived in that community, so he did have a reason for being there; and, in fact, he was expected back there after having gone to a convenience store; but, of course, he never made it back. As for the claim that he was "prowling" and "acting suspicious", what may have seem that way to Mr. Zimmerman may have simply been a teenage kid trying to find the right house in the dark and in the rain. So, yes, we should not been too quick to judge the defendant. But let's not be too quick to judge the victim, either. Especially considering the fact that Mr. Zimmerman is alive to defend himself–Mr. Martin is not. It's very easy to pick a side and blindly follow its narrative, whichever side it may be. It's much harder, although much wiser, to be objective and allow each claim to stand on its own merit.

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Jeff Fairchild

May 10, 2012  2:06pm

Sue, with all due respect, the young man could not have been very easily identified as black or white in the dark on a rainy night with a black hoodie over his head. Second, how did Mr. Zimmerman know that it was an unarmed kid? He did not. He had some guy on top of him beating him in the head. Further, Mr. Zimmerman made a bad decision chasing the boy but was retreating after told to do so by 911 dispatch. Furthermore, the kid was acting suspicious and was in an area that had been experiencing a lot of crime. that does not make him guilty but it does make the situation worse. As I said earlier, this incident did not become about race until Jessie Jackson, Al Scharpton and the president weighed in. And, unfortunately these men even inflamed the New Black Panthers into offering a bounty on Mr. Zimmerman. We need to remember to not judge someone guilty until we have all the facts. I hope and pray Mr. Zimmerman can get a fair trial.

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Clark Coleman

May 10, 2012  7:52am

Sue: "And it is his own words in the 911 call that indicate racism ..." Are you actually unaware that the 911 calls were edited, that people at NBC news have been fired because of it, that CNN issued a retraction of one of their statements about the 911 call audio analysis? Have you really been duped by leftist media and not realized it? Please post call transcript statements that you believe indicate racism.

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Sue

May 09, 2012  4:08pm

@Jeff - what?? Out prowling around - you mean, walking home? "Made a few mistakes" - you mean, shooting and killing someone who was unarmed? The flap came about when after all that, the man wasn't arrested! And it is his own words in the 911 call that indicate racism, not what the President said. This is the kind of thing that is so sad. It seems to me that we are so reflexive, that when one of "them" - by that, I mean, those with whose politics we disagree - assert something, we must assert the opposite.

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Matt P

May 09, 2012  10:14am

I will not acknowledge racism and deal with it from that standpoint only! That is something that the world may do. Christians have a higher calling, a precedent to set before the world. I will stand with God's word and stress, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). I am a Christian and don't see black, white, brown or any other color. I see people, human beings made in the image of God.

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