Saturday, March 31, 2012

About a Boy

There's been a lot of discussion about gun laws, self defense, and justice of late, mostly precipitated by the killing of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old killed from Florida. Many people have shared opinions and argued back and forth. I have some thoughts about all of those issues - you're just not going to see them here. For the past several days, there's been one intriguing aspect of this story that's been on my mind.

When the President said, "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon" what he said was correct, but the truth is, if any of us had a son, he would look like Trayvon. Ironically, crazy Newt Gingrich was the only person of note to bring this up. And while I disagree with his charges of race-baiting (and nearly every other things that comes out of his mouth), I do agree this statement highlights race and should be given additional notice.

I believe the quote, and others like it, is meant to draw attention to the very real possibility that being black in the United States (and nearly anywhere else), in and of itself, is more dangerous than being white. As obvious as this realization is to millions of black parents, it may have taken an event like this for it to really sink in for Barack Obama (and for many other parents).

I want to be careful here and not ignore the reality of racism and our collective denial of the real effects of slavery and segregation in this country. Even if race had nothing to do with the death of Trayvon Martin, it's certainly reminiscent of many other deaths in which race played a pivotal role.

In the President's statement, Trayvon was not just a child, but a black child - which, inadvertently, pushes those of us who will likely never have a black child into a second class of relatability. Of course, my righteous indignation does precisely the same thing - why does Trayvon's age make his death, under these circumstances, any more tragic?

As a Christian, I believe that life is precious, that the taking of life is always tragic - even if, on occasion, we find it regrettably necessary. I believe that when a human being takes life there is an incongruity with our own created nature - something damaged that requires divine intervention to be healed. I wonder if we assign these levels of tragedy to killings as an attempt to buffer ourselves from the very real effects of those others we deem justified?

I think we create these levels of tragedy specifically to correspond with ourselves. The more innocent, the more well-intentioned, the more responsible for others, the more physically similar to me, the more tragic the death. Is this ultimately a way of calling our own lives more worthy of continuing than others? This becomes vitally important if we're ever in a situation where our life is threatened. We have a built in excuse to "kill or be killed" - our death would be more tragic than their's.

It all leads me to ponder what sort of actions and thought patterns I should be practicing to enforce and instill the idea that my life is not more important than any other? If indeed there exists a situation in which "kill or be killed" are the only two options, the more tragic is to choose killing - after all, the victim doesn't have to live with the consequences.


Anonymous said...

Written like a white northh-easterner with no understanding of the effects of racism apparent in his own backyard.

Ryan said...

I'd appreciate if comments would come with some identification. I'm not really in the mood to entertain random anonymous comments, but I would like to know more about what you mean here.

I tried to mention race and its place in our cultural context, even though race wasn't really the topic of the post. I don't want to come off as someone who denies the very real racism that is inherent in our culture.

I was simply trying to comment on our own self-identification and stratification. We tend to be more upset when people who look like us are treated unjustly, as opposed to realizing that everyone looks like us.

That doesn't and shouldn't negate the real differences in race, but that's really another issue.

To whoever left the comment, I might simply ask what aspects of racism in my neighborhood or general area of the country do I not recognize and understand? How could you tell that from a post that isn't about race?