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Around the Web: Quakers Respond to the George Zimmerman Verdict

trayvon-nyc-rally-flickr-fleshmanpixAround the web and within communities of Friends, Quakers are responding to the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial, in which Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., on February 26, 2012. Zimmerman was found not guilty and the verdict announced on July 13, 2013.

Back in November 2012, Lucy Duncan, the Friends Liaison at American Friends Service Committee, wrote a reflection for Friends Journal called Why I Work for Social Justice and Healing:

When Trayvon Martin was murdered in Florida recently, I thought of my students and how much things haven’t changed, how much things have gotten worse in some ways. Incarceration rates have skyrocketed, public schools are being dismantled, and the middle class is shrinking. … I understand much more now how important culturally responsive instruction is, how important it is to teach the history of resistance. … I understand how I am connected to George Zimmerman’s fear and Trayvon Martin’s mother’s pain. I understand that until all children are safe, no one is really safe.

Lynching By Any Other Name, by Quaker blogger Charley Earp:

At the root of this verdict is a new category of laws called “stand your ground” which have been enacted in several states, often with the backing of ALEC, a right-wing organization dedicated to rewriting legislation across the nation that weakens civil rights for all citizens, not just Blacks. We now know enough about the SYG laws to condemn their result as giving rise to a new wave of lynchings in the name of protecting white privilege. A state with SYG laws in place will have over 100% more not guilty verdicts for white murders of black men than other states without comparable laws. That, my friends, is nothing less than lynching by another name. And, it smells fouler than death itself.

I am George Zimmerman: White Privilege, Accountability, and Dog-Walking, by Kevin Griffin Moreno:

Structural racism affects all of us. Those of us who enjoy white privilege are complicit in it to varying degrees, but we’re all accountable. If I enjoy white privilege, it doesn’t matter whether I choose to think of myself as a “good person;” it’s not about that. It doesn’t matter whether or not I feel “white guilt;” it’s not about that, either. What matters, I think, is that I honestly consider my own role in perpetuating or reducing racism, and then—here’s the important part—do something more than changing my Twitter icon.

Martin Kelley, Friends Journal Senior Editor, wrote of “Georges and Trayvons” in his personal blog:

The work that needs to be done—or con­tin­ued, for we need to remem­ber the many times peo­ple have done the right thing—couldn’t be answered by a crim­i­nal trial any­way. What’s needed is the education of soci­ety at large.

One step is all of the con­ver­sa­tions tak­ing place on Face­book and around water cool­ers this week. Let’s talk about the fears that sub­con­sciously drive us. For Zimmerman’s gun was only one of the trig­gers that killed Mar­tin. It was fear that gave us Sanford’s gated com­mu­nity and its town watch, along with our nation’s per­mis­sive gun laws and dra­con­ian legal con­cepts like “stand­ing one’s ground.” It was that potent mix of sus­pi­cion that set in motion a sit­u­a­tion that left a sev­en­teen-year-old kid with a pock­et­ful of Skit­tles lying dead face down in the grass.

In “White Privilege: Reflections after the George Zimmerman verdict,” Quaker and Buddhist Tenzing Chödrön writes:

But being able to walk down a street at night without being shot because your skin color makes you appear “suspicious” shouldn’t be a privilege. It should be the norm. Being able to walk into a store and not having the manager tail you should be the norm. Being able to get a job based on your qualifications and not your skin color or sex or etc. should be the norm. Being able to live in any neighborhood you can afford without being given sham excuses about why you can’t live there should be the norm. Everyone should be able to live the life a male, straight, white, able-bodied, etc. American can live.

Quaker healer Niyonu Spann writes, in “Dis-Heartened: on recognizing the disease that killed Trayvon“:

Bottom line is: all our sons and daughters have the right TO BE…TO FULLY BE…TO LIVE and each one of them deserves to have that right protected.

Instead of treasuring, embracing, or even allowing our son’s and daughter’s living, this verdict confirmed a continued disregard and further indicates a full-blown disease running through this society…a cancer destroying vital organs completely oblivious to the unavoidable fact that in so doing, it is killing itself.

I am George Zimmerman: Getting past denial so we can begin to heal,” writes AFSC Friends Liaison Lucy Duncan in a post-verdict update:

The thing that’s been the most difficult for me since the George Zimmerman verdict was announced has been the justifications and defensiveness coming from white folk. I get it—I was once so deep in the insane rationality of white privilege that I did it, too (sometimes still do). But more than anything else that defensiveness, that sense that we/I am “too good” to have done any harm is what gets in the way of healing.

“Oh what sorrow! oh, what pity! That tears and blood should mix like rain and terror come again”: reflections on Trayvon Martin, by Anthony Manousos, a Quaker peace activist, writer, and teacher:

We are called now to seek and dig out the roots of racism in exploitation and super-exploitation, in the divisiveness intentionally fostered by the few in order to divert the righteous anger of the masses, in capitalism itself.

We are called now to seek another way of living, one in which love, instead of money, is the currency of society. One without exploitation, in which goods are produced to be shared as needed, not to be sold for profit. One in which, in the words of Amos, our people “shall rebuild the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink their wine; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.”

And here’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Quaker editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson:

Signe Wilkinson cartoon - July 23, 2013

“I’m ready for our conversation on race!”

Abington Friends School’s Head of School, Rich Nourie, wrote an email to the AFS community regarding a Trayvon Martin Meeting for Worship to be held in Abington, Pa., on July 16, 2013:

As a community committed to active peacemaking, a time like this calls us to connection and reflection. We can strengthen each other in developing deeper understanding, compassion and appropriate action by coming together at a trying time.

In a follow-up email to Friends Journal, Nourie continued:

Abington Friends School held a Trayvon Martin Meeting for Worship at the Abington Friends Meetinghouse.

Abington Friends School held a Trayvon Martin Meeting for Worship at the Abington Friends Meetinghouse.

A Meeting following the Trayvon Martin verdict felt especially important knowing that it was something that was deeply painful and troubling for so many at a time, summer, when we don’t have the regular routines of school to bring us together.

At this time, two dimensions of our Friends spiritual practice seemed particularly relevant to me. First, our practice of silent worship is contemplative at heart, an opportunity for pain and suffering to be met by the Light within. In the wellspring of spirit at our center, we have an opportunity to encounter the deep reality of peace, love, strength, perspective, and compassion that is always present to us. In times of deep distress, it is good for us as a community to be able to open ourselves to be reminded and encouraged by each other in this larger reality.

Second, ours is a discernment tradition and Meeting for Worship offers an opportunity to reflect on the key question of “How am I called to respond?” We are so diverse in our gifts. In the urgency many of us feel at the injustice of the killing of an innocent young man, it is right to take time to discern what is the call to action for each of us. We are all called to play a part in building a more just and peaceful world and those roles range widely among us. Our gifts together, completed with God’s grace, make the work possible.

While all of this is true, what we experienced at last Tuesday’s Meeting for Worship was each other at a time of vulnerability, anger, fear, outrage, and sadness. The silence offered a place to be with each other, and spoken testimony helped all of us to better understand the collective experience and meaning throughout this diverse gathering of Meeting members, students, parents, faculty, and staff. I was grateful to hear the honest reflections of those who spoke and grateful too for the gift of silence. While I’m sure I knew it going in, I was humbled too to see that this experience and its ongoing challenge to so many of us, of course, far transcends an individual Meeting for Worship. I believe many us left the time together thankful for the opportunity of silent worship, but still unsettled, appropriate to the work that needs to be done.

Your correspondent attended the Abington Trayvon Martin Meeting for Worship on July 16, and heard from AFS math teacher Wayne Kurtz:

As I reflect on the Trayvon Martin case, I’m reminded of a story from childhood where my adoptive father helped to protect and guide me from a potentially bad situation involving a racist comment from a group of white children at the Jersey shore. I believe this instance has informed the advice I now give to my students and to my children: “walk away from danger, when you sense something is wrong.”

In a follow-up conversation, Kurtz went on:

Just last week, I was on the AFS soccer field playing with a group of students when a stranger drove by and shouted an offensive word at us from his car. This is a good example of when you’re provoked, you become reactionary and you get defensive. In this case, I really had to think about my actions before saying something in response that might have made matters worse.

When you’re in a certain mentoring position, such as a teacher or a coach, it’s important to be careful about what we say and how we act so that we don’t pass down these stereotypes and hasty behaviors to younger generations. I believe that if you’re threatened in some way, and this is hard, but you can empower yourself to confront the issue in constructive ways, using thoughtful words to begin a dialogue with the other person.

I don’t consider myself to be Quaker, but I am adopting some aspects of Quakerism, such as the power of nonviolence… I find myself wondering “why in the world do we need guns?”

Photo of New York City rally 7/14/13 courtesy flickr/fleshmanpix (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Gail Whiffen is Friends Journal‘s associate editor.

Posted in: The FJ Blog

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11 Responses to Around the Web: Quakers Respond to the George Zimmerman Verdict

  1. Greg Williams August 1, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    City & State
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Along with that cartoon by Signe Wilkirson, I am ready for our conversation on race. I can only agree with what has been written. However my everyday experience as a Black Quaker after 32 years, is that we really don’t care very much. That Friends Journal would take up a “Black Moment” is commendable, but it is not the day to day experience of Friends. I wish it were. Communities of Color have experienced a genocide in my lifetime, which members of our Religious Society of Friends have ignored. Racism is a form of torture here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    In the United States of America, that “Colorline” of W.E.B. Du Boise which he wrote about in 1902… has not really been addressed by Quakers The ghetto in America is alive with misery but we are silent. With a few exceptions Quakers of color in the USA are ignored. There is no real effort to welcome People of Color into our Religious Society. We don’t expend resources and have not tried to nurture meetings within communities of color.

    I note with dismay that AFSC and FCNL have a new joint “Security” program that ignores development of a domestic security program, while they focus on tired worn issues.. I do hope there is a serious conversation and viable action in my lifetime.

    • Greg Williams August 2, 2013 at 8:47 am #

      City & State
      Boston, Massachusetts
      So We really don’t want to have a conversation?

      • Lucy Duncan August 9, 2013 at 9:59 am #

        City & State
        Philadelphia, PA
        Dear Greg,

        Yes, I’m hopeful that the gathering of folks working on racism in Friends Meetings in September will help, that more folks will attend BD101 in October. But I agree, there was a delay in responses from Quakers after Trayvon and after the verdict, I’m pleased Friends Journal made this a priority.

        Niyonu and I spoke at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting on the anatomy of racism within individuals and organizations which was powerfully, openly received. I hope some ripples emerge from that talk.

        Though AFSC works diligently in communities of color in the US working to connect the dots and impact policy, too, we also work internationally and see the impacts of US policy in the world beyond our borders and the need to address the destructive role the US is currently playing there, too. We don’t see it as either/or, but how can we ignore the cries of our brothers in the countries we work in?

        That said, 2/3 of our budget goes toward efforts in the US and I was gratified to see Quakers in BYM and in other places organizing around mass incarceration in collaboration with other faiths and churches. Is it enough? Certainly not. Are we working as a community as powerfully as we need, in a way that is implied in a our faith and testimonies that we would commit to create the family of God? No, we need to get organized, get connected and make this a central commitment of our faith.

        Thanks for your continue call to all Quakers to a deeper faithfulness, it’s important, it matters to me, thank you for your ministry.

        Blessings,
        Lucy

        • Greg Williams August 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

          City & State
          Jamaica Plain, MA
          Lucy,

          Over the years I have heard several excellent talks at New England Yearly Meeting, (I even got to give one myself). Talk has yet to transform our Religious Society of Friends. Real outreach by Quaker Meetings into communities of color are few and far in between.

          I think Friends Journal jumped into the drivers seat of an issue that they have not really focused on and they could have said that. I think that kind of disclosure is important. Friends Journal should continue this discussion.

          For me it is really about Quaker Meetings engaging Communities of Color. AFSC may do good but it is not A Quaker Meeting… There is a big difference.

          Greg Williams

          • Lucy Duncan August 14, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

            City & State
            Philadelphia, PA
            Dear Greg,

            Excellent points. You’re so right – AFSC doing the work is one thing, meetings doing it is another, BUT my work is all about helping meetings and AFSC do the work you describe together and I hope that it doesn’t have to be an either/or kind of thing. I think the change we seek needs all of us with the skills we bring and I do think AFSC can help build bridges between Quaker meetings and communities of color – that’s what I’m trying to support in many ways. And talk alone is insufficient, though Niyonu and I spoke about the dynamics and anatomy of racism in people and organizations at PhYM and it felt as though there was a spiritual opening there that very well could lead to action. So speaking isn’t sufficient, but it can help.

            I wonder if there are a few meetings that could teach us a bit about this work – Green Street Meeting is unusual in the number of people of color, mostly African American, that are a part of the meeting. That may be a starting place.

            Acknowledging that Friends Journal hasn’t focused on this as much as it might and did so this time is important as an indicator of whether racial justice is at the forefront of Quakers thinking.

            In Peace,
            Lucy

  2. Barbara August 1, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    City & State
    Malvern, PA
    I was walking to my car after a meeting in Wilmington, DE, one day a few years ago. Two young African American men were walking in front of me. One of them turned around, looked at me, and remarked, “Got to check out who’s walking behind me …. never know what dangerous person can be walking behind you.” He sure got his point across!

  3. Barbara August 1, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    City & State
    Malvern, PA
    hmmm … right after I posted the above comment I realized that I had identified the young men walking in front of me as African American but did not specify that I’m Caucasian (if that’s the current term). Of course, my race would just be assumed, as it’s the “norm.” WOW! Enlightening (and a bit frightening) to observe the biases in one’s own thought processes…

  4. Tams August 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    City & State
    Chicago, IL
    I just found this site and considered bookmarking it until I read these reactions. They seem ill-informed & based on the story the mass media and NAACP sold everyone.

    Real, in-depth information can be found @ the site that Zimmerman’s Lawyer Mark O’Mara created, which is factual and posts discovery material, including that which was not allowed by the judge in trial (Trayvon’s phone messages, photos, etc). The conservativetreehouse blog also did in-depth research and reporting.

    Informed ppl also know that the FBI questioned over 40 ppl who knew George Zimmerman, trying to find out if he was “racist” – the over 40 people proved HE WAS NOT. In fact, GZ was a good friend to blacks, stood up for a black homeless man who had been beaten by a white policeman’s son, took a black girl to a prom, grew up with black kids in his household and was not racist at all.

    It would be advisable to note that the woman who is touring as Travon’s Mom is his birth mother – she did not raise him, for the most part. The woman who raised him, Alicia Stanley, has been forced into the background because she disrupts the “narrative”. She was not even allowed a front row seat at his funeral. Look for her very revealing interview on CNN on youtube.

    I am disappointed with commenters who clearly are not really informed about the case but throwing out opinions.

    Good luck and goodbye.

  5. Royce Lerwick August 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    City & State
    Brooklyn Park MN
    I’m alarmed that so large and allegedly intelligent, well-considered and reasonable a religious group can be so decidedly ignorant concerning a legal case it pretends to hold up as an indictment of an entire nation. Certainly there are cases of overt racism, violent murders, and yes, in rare instances you could even argue that they don’t get the attention they should. Not so in this case. Race wasn’t an issue period. It wasn’t even brought up by the prosecution, not even racial profiling. George Zimmerman is the most vetted man in the history of the universe when it comes for witch hunting for evidence or “racial animus.” Not the Sanford police, not the Sanford Mayor and Prosecutor, not the State-appointed special prosecution team and Attorney General of Florida, not Attorney General Holder of the United States of America, and not the FBI came up with any suggestion of racism or anything like it, either in the case or in George Zimmerman’s entire life. Rather, they found a community voluneer who mentored black children, who organized a protest and campaign to redress the mistreatment by the Sanford Police of a black homeless man, and a young man who took his black girlfriend to his high school prom. Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton are an act, a travelling street theater company. Tracy was a seria adulterer who’d destroyed three families and dragged Trayvon along through his mess. The so-called “fiance” Tracy was staying with (shacking up with) Brandy Green, was married and cheating on someone else. Tracy was still married to Alicia Stanley, who he’d cheated with when he left Sybrina. For whatever reason, Sybrina handed Trayvon off to Alicia who raised him for 14 years as his mother, from age 3–his entire conscious lifetime. Then his father messed that up and sent him for a few months to live with Sybrina, who he barely knew. She’d just sent him back to his father at Retreat at Twin Lakes earlier in the day, because his behaviour had become unmanageable for her. Trayvon was not shot by a rabid white racist for simply being black in a white neighborhood, that’s a fantasy created between Rachel Jeantel and Sybrina Fulton for attention and cashflow. Trayvon was in fact wandering around in the rain for roughly an hour. He’d walked to the store for five or more minutes, checked out, and Zimmerman didn’t even spot him till 45 minutes after he left the store. What he was doing in truth, was wandering around the housing complex, talking “nigga” talk with his girl “friend” Rachel Jeantel (This in her words.) He was not headed home. It wasn’t his home. He’d just arrived and nobody at all knew him there. He was hanging out under awnings and poking through yards and buildings–the behavior that first drew Zimmerman’s attention to him. At the moment he was shot, he’d just ditched Zimmerman, after calling him a “nigga” and a “creepy ass cracker” and concluded on the phone with Rachel, that George Zimmerman was a gay predator either propositioning him or stalking him for purposes of raping him. Though Jeantel testified that Trayvon had told her he’d made it back to his “daddy home” (his father’s shackup buddy they jokingly referred to as a “fiance” until she ecaporated in a few days) and then she claims she heard Trayvon get attacked. That argument didn’t hold up for a number of reasons. First of all where the actual first confrontation took place was a football field away and around a corner from Trayvon’s temporary domicile. Zimmerman never got anywhere near it, and only “stalked” less than a hundred feet from his own truck the whole time. Trayvon slipped out of sight for four minutes, during which time he could have run home and back three times or more, but he was still carrying his treats when the two met at the infamous T intersection. George had gotten out of the truck to see if Trayvon was even still in the area. Trayvon at the same time doubled back and came at George out of the dark–and it was pitch black and wet. Except for the proverbial bus load of nuns eye witnesses described a very short scuffle followed by Trayvon Martin mounting Zimmerman and beating him with impunity about the face and head. Zimmerman’s story completely gells with all the witness accounts. Stand your ground was not an issue. When Zimmerman fired, it was a clear and simple case of self defense. Trayvon was a thug-wannabe who made street-fighting videos and had violent and profane Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts where he demonstrated his fighting prowess, and solicited the codeine-based prescription cough syrup that would have completed the drink he was making from the Skittles and Watermellon Berry drink–calle “Purple Drank,” and “Zizzurp.” A picture is worth a thousand lies. Trayvon Martin was 6’2″ and 160lbs or fighting machine. He towered over Zimmerman, and in the dark, in loose clothing and a dark hood, he would have looked like a monster. Seriously, do some reading. I waded through days of transcripts and sat through the whole trial and every minute of testimony on TV. There’s a reason the verdict was unanimous. There never was a case against George Zimmerman, and neither race nor gun laws had anything to do with it.

    • Stephen Jenkins October 7, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      Royce, Please understand that this site does not reflect the views of all Quakers. My meeting does not engage in political discussions with only partial information gained through the media of all places. This is not Quaker and should be fully removed from the site. I am ashamed of my fellow Quakers…

    • Paul October 29, 2013 at 12:29 am #

      City & State
      Hartford, Conn.
      Royce, It never ceases to amaze me when I hear rationalization from people of your persuasion. It is always the case that there are some people who look for trouble when they are armed then when they are not. I know people like you and GZ would be quaking in their boots waiting in their car for the police to show up rather then stalking a 17 year old when they are not armed.
      Sooner than later guys like GW will run out of luck and pick on the wrong person who to their great surprise is also armed and a faster draw. That person will then have the same trial like GZ and walk because GZ will not be there to give his side of the story. I wonder what you will say then? My guess is you will be singing a different tune! I guarantee it. Good luck with that one!

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