Sunday, September 13, 2015

Racism 101: Racism Exists

I want to share my story about why I came to care about racism. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have any special qualifications. A lot of white people don’t see racism and like to debate whether or not something was racist. They may have a similar background to me, so I hope this will be insightful on how and why my perspective has changed. None of the answers I suggest here are a comprehensive solution. They are each just one step.

When I was a kid, I thought racism was over

I hope no adults were trying to teach me this, but it was often implied. Martin Luther King Jr. solved racism and that everyone was equal now. Racism stories were always set in the past. From a kid’s perspective, the far distant past. Nothing in those stories seemed similar to life today.

Along with this false knowledge, I was poorly prepared to see or understand racism in my life. 

The first problem was the definition of racism. I knew three examples: Slavery is racist. Segregation is racist. Saying racial slurs is racist. End of list. This was a very pleasant definition, because it meant that I could never be racist. 

The main tool I was given for dealing with racism was colorblindness.  Don’t notice race. Don’t talk about race. Focus on common ground. 

While I grew up in my very nice, small Wyoming town, I believed in a post-racial world. I was unable to see any racism around me. The first thing that helped open my eyes was relocating.

I went to college in Texas, and I saw something new. Almost every student and teacher was white, but everyone who served me food was black, and everyone who cleaned up after me was Latino.  

I had a conflict. Colorblindness told me I shouldn’t see it. But my definition of racism said it was segregation. I knew that no one was forcing others into those jobs or forbidding them from attending school. Yet, equal opportunity could not yield such color-coded results. I knew something was unfair, but I was too uncomfortable to ask about it.

My next challenge came from an inability to speak up. When I heard people say racist things, I didn’t argue. The words would be too subtle, maybe I misunderstood, or maybe I was being too sensitive. If someone said, “It makes me so mad seeing Spanish on all the billboards in town.” I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t have a conversation about it.

When my campus ministry tried to teach me about racial reconciliation, I resisted. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship often has separate campus chapters for black, Latino, Asian,  Native, or International students. I thought that was horrible. Segregation! It seemed wrong to use labels. My old color-blindness training from childhood kicked in. .Isn’t it better to pretend that everyone is the same, and have everyone get along? 

When our new staff had a heart for Latino students,” subtlykept trying to hide it. I was in charge of the club webpage, and I couldn’t bear to advertise that we’d started a Latino Bible Study. The only way I could justify the existence of such a thing was to say that it was a Bible study “in Spanish and English.” 

But then our all-white Christian Club started to have Latino students involved. In fact, that year our chapter grew more diverse across several ethnicities. The simplest explanation from my staff worker that I could half-way understand was this: 

Some Latino students would actually like to hang out with other Latino students, someone who understood their culture, family dynamics, and way of approaching faith. They’re surrounded by white culture all day long; having some time away can be nice. White people have a problem that when we invite a minority person to a group, we don’t invite them to bring their culture along. We just expect them to join white culture. We think white culture is “normal.” 

This was both confusing and enlightening. There’s a white culture? There’s a white way of doing things? I had always thought the way I did things was normal. Other races have “culture.” Culture means dressing up in special outfits, eating strange food, speaking a different language. Again, my education had failed me. I could not look at my own culture from an outside view. 

Still, this ministry encouraged me to displace myself and my heart, and within a year of that insight, I was leading a Bible study for international students. It was a good first step for me.

Next, I moved to Rhode Island. It was a good time to think about culture, because New England and Texas have many differences. Plus, we were losing college for career culture. A lot of changes challenged what I saw as normal. We joined a multi-ethnic church and got a taste of black culture. (This church did not have a vision for verbally educating us about racial issues, but I deeply appreciate them for including us and giving us opportunities for cross-cultural interaction.) 

I worked for a few years as a substitute teacher in a low socio-economic school district. It had a large minority population. I’d never realized how lucky I’d been to have the education I did with advanced classes, enthusiastic teachers, and after school clubs.

Teachers at this school were burned out, frustrated, and spent their lunch breaks complaining about the students and the parents. Many of the students were rude, noisy, and talked back over every detail. They weren’t excited about school or planning for college. No one attending this school could have anything like an “equal opportunity” compared to what I had. 

I joined InterVarsity again, this time as staff. It was the only place in my life where people talked about race, rather than viewing it as a hopeless and taboo subject. I was challenged, like when a black InterVarsity staff ask us, “Have you ever been inside a black person’s house?” I hadn’t. It wasn’t intentional. But it was a blind spot in my life.

On campus, I tried to seek out minority students for the first time. The chapter there was already diverse and had some good intentions about including all people. What helped the most wasto bring minority students into leadership positions. They couldreach other minority students better than I could, and could help change the culture of the whole group. A church body looks different when all ethnicities are a part of it. Not just in a photograph, but it worship, in conversation, and revelation. The white church is missing something when it stands alone. 

We studied diversity in scripture, and I began to appreciate other cultures by design. Why should everyone be the same? Differences are wonderful, beautiful, and a source of strength. A team where everyone has the same background and perspective is limited. A diverse team sees beyond the status quo. This broke apart another bad piece of my education, the idea that everything can be earned by “merit” or good test scores

This helped interpret another piece of racism from my youth, the objection to affirmative action. Three of my high school friends had made a humorous video listing their grievances with affirmative action. Although their logic made sense to me at the time, I was confused about their passion for the subject, considering that all three were accepted at their first choice universities. Now, I saw greater merit in a college that was trying to correct its monochrome history. Affirmative action didn’t hurt any of my friends. Instead, I hope it helped them, that they were later grateful to study alongside students from other races and cultures, and that diversity enriched their college experience.

During those years, I read Living in Color. It was difficult to read in some ways, because it brought up a people group whose oppression I had long ignored: American Indians. The author, Randy Woodley is a Keetowah Cherokee. His book was the first time I read about the “Kill the Indian, Save the Child” policy by which native children were stolen from their parents to be raised in boarding schools or with white families. The people in power saw no value in Indian culture. The goal of colonization was to replace it. In my education, the wounds of this and many other assaults on native people are glossed over. I was told it was far in the past. Indians should get over it. Move on. Become normal

Today, Native people in my home state endure the same stereotyping as minorities in the larger American public sphere. Lazy. Addicted to drugs. Hopeless. And past violence against them was washed away by saying, “Indians massacred people too!” My friend who works in retail in Montana is skeptical that black people are treated differently in stores. Yet she admits, “When someone comes in from the Reservation, the staff keep an eye on them.” 

What did I learn? What challenged me?
• Racism is more than segregation, slavery and slurs
• Colorblindness hinders rather than helps
• It’s good to have space for people of color to celebrate their culture
• It’s good to displace yourself to learn about other’s culture
• Diversity is a strength
• White culture isn’t “normal” or standard

I still didn’t have a good definition for racism, or a good understanding of how it was still influencing my country. All this gave me some preparation for Fall 2014, when Ferguson brought racism back into the national spotlight. Stay tuned for Racism 102: Systemic Racism.

Final thought: Being unaware of racism is a privilege many people don’t have. If white people want, we can ignore racism, and it will probably have no impact on our lives. But many other people are hurt by racism every day. They don’t have the option to ignore it or go on an entertaining journey of “discovering” racism like I did.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Divorce and Forgiveness

Some Christians believe divorce is only permitted in the case of adultery, and that remarriage is a sin because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:
It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
This seems a harsh interpretation given the context directly before, which states that lustful thoughts count as adultery.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
Some historical context is helpful. In ancient times (and, frankly, recent and present times), a women was unable to get a divorce. Only husbands had rights. So this passage is not speaking to wives, it is speaking to husbands, the people with power. They could legally divorce their wives for any reason, such as finding someone new or having an argument. This was really hard on the wife. She may have no family or community support networks after her marriage ended.

I think Jesus is valuing women here. He says, stop throwing away your wives like trash! Don’t pass her around from husband to husband like an object, or leave her alone and without family. If you get a divorce, it had better be for a good reason, not just because you don’t like her cooking. Adultery is a good example, however I don’t see that it should be the only reason.

Adultery was a serious double standard at this time. Wives were expected to be faithful and husbands were not. This is another reason why this set of scriptures is targeted primarily toward men. Jesus expects a higher standard of behavior men them than their society expects.

Therefore, I do not think this passage applies to the situation of an abused wife. But because it is a strongly-held belief that divorce is only permitted by adultery, I am also interested in looking deeper into the definition of adultery.

The third chapter of Jeremiah is useful (though a difficult and shaming read). Adultery and prostitution are used as the metaphors by which the prophet Jeremiah describes the unfaithfulness of God’s people, Israel.
…Look up to the barren heights and see. Is there any place where you [Israel] have not been ravished? By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers, sat like a nomad in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness. …you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame…. Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood… (Jeremiah 3:2-3,9)
Idolatry and adultery overlap. The people “cheated” on God with other gods.

Note how bad these false gods were. God wasn’t just possessive and needy. These religions were actually hurtful to the people practicing them, temple prostitution, child sacrifice, etc. These are not gods that loved and cared for people. They are capricious gods who demand sacrifices to eke out good crops and fertility.

Cheating on God wasn’t about sex. It was about unfaithfulness to the one good Father who wanted to give good gifts.

So, can adultery have more than one meaning? Perhaps an abusive husband has not been sexually unfaithful to his wife, but a man who hurts, deceives, and manipulates his wife has not been faithful to her. He has committed adultery.

A husband may claim to be a follower of God, but Jesus warns against liars and deceivers.  
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:15-17)
What is the fruit of this man? Abuse, prison, lies, rebellion, rape, drug and alcohol abuse, deceit, manipulation, homelessness, law-breaking, children taken away. He is not listening to God. He is not following God. 
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23) 
Words alone are meaningless without the fruits of the Spirit.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23)
It may sound holy to stay bound to an unfaithful husband. But this can also be a form of idolatry.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. (Psalm 22:24-25)
Don’t make an idol out of your marriage or family.
 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
This is not what God wants for you! God wants good for you, not bad.

It’s hard to let someone go when Jesus is so forgiving and loving. Yet cutting ties can be a form of brotherly love.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5) 
I don’t normally agree with kicking people out of church, but this sounds like a rape and abuse situation to me. It can’t be tolerated. People are being harmed. The woman in this story has value. God cares about her. Perhaps the wicked man will come to repent at some point in the future, but it’s not the community’s job to “save” an abuser. It’s necessary to care for the victims and prevent future harm.

It’s okay to forgive an abuser as part of the healing process, but it’s not okay to let the abuser back in your life. The Lord’s Prayer speaks of forgiveness in terms of letting go of a debt.
This, then, is how you should pray:Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

An abusive husband has run up a terrible debt, as long list of hurts and sins. He will never be able to repay it. He can never make up for the wrong that has been done.

You can forgive the debt. Let go. It’s not worth holding onto. (It just keeps you tied to that person.) But it’s also time to cut off the line of credit. Don’t trust an abuser not to take advantage of his 23rd chance. God’s will is not being done when an abuser is allowed to hurt you. God’s kingdom is not on earth when an abuser has power over the weak.

Yes, there are passages in the Bible that call for obedience, submission, forbearance and patience. Good discernment is needed for applying these to personal situations. Some people misuse the Bible to hurt others, asking them to keep carrying a burden instead of giving it to Jesus. Matthew 5 has good guidance, but it can be misused. It is okay to let go of a bad interpretation of scripture when you can see that it is causing harm and bearing bad fruit. Taking one verse and applying it to every situation is a way to avoid listening to God. Reading the Bible must be paired with prayerfully considering decisions and seeking wise counsel.

The Bible has many stories of people who broke “the rules” and were honored by God. Abigail was disobedient to her wicked husband 1 Samuel 25.
“Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. [Your husband] is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”
Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys.  Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. (1 Samuel 25:17-19).
You can let go of a bad decision you made in your youth. God wants to give you freedom from a bad relationship, not to burden you.
 They [the Pharisees] tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:4)
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30) 
The gospel message is not a message of obligation and punishment; it is a message of freedom and forgiveness. Look at Galatians 5 again:
 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:1, 4-6, 13-14, 22-23)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Incomplete Systemic Racism List

I use the word systemic because it’s widespread. Our racist history is still present in laws, practices, attitudes and beliefs. Here are a few examples. The list includes more stories about black people because of recent conversations about Mike Brown, but I'm trying to expand it.

Racism in Laws

  • Stand your ground / Castle Laws used as defense to murder
“In Florida alone, 26 children and teens were killed in Stand Your Ground cases.” “White-on-black homicides are 354 percent more likely to be ruled justified than white-on-white.”

  • Stop and Frisk Laws focus on minorities

  • voting laws

  • Immigration laws
SB-1070 racial profiling

  • Segregation in schools

  • healthcare

Racism in Police treatment
  • Murder of black men

  • Murder of black women

  • Murder of Native men

  • murder of white men leads to jail time for officer
The life of a murderous neo-nazi had value.

  • other physical abuse

  • Innocent black people detained for nonsense reasons

  • In consequences for officers

  • Police being suspicious of black people
New Jerseyman afraid to get out of the car

Racism in Courts and Prison
  • Harsher sentences for black defendants

  • Disproportionate numbers of black people in prison

  • White defendants “innocent” after murdering black people

  • Drugs

Racism in News Media regarding legal issues
  • White people are encouraged to fear black people

  • Victim-blaming and excuses for why a black person was murdered
Mike Brown “no angel” New York Times

More conversations about Racism

Another conversation about racism, starting with John Crawford III, then focusing on Trayvon Martin. These conversations were shared publically or with permission. 
Names and personal details omitted. 
J is a white man in his early 30s, I’m a white woman in her late 20s
Content has been greatly shortened from the original for the sake of avoiding repetition, and deleting misunderstandings that were cleared up. I’ve added ellipses for deleted content. Bold added by me. Minor edits for spelling and grammar are unmarked. 

Ginger’s Wall
A black man holding a store air rifle pointed down is considered so threatening that police can shoot and kill him without discussion or repercussions. This is injustice on every level.
[link to the walmart security video of John Crawford III’s death]

If it were a white man shot in the same circumstances, would it be any less of an injustice? Why the need to inject race into it?

Z [a white man]
There really needs to be a law on the book to arrest those who call in lies to 911. Even if this was a real rifle, Ohio has open carry laws which allow him to carry it in public legally. However, the person who called 911 said that he was loading the rifle and pointing it at people. Both of which were lies.

J, this isn't happening to white men. It's happening to black men. Over and over and over. I'm not interjecting race; I'm observing a pattern.

It is happening to white people also. It's just that no one seems to care if a black cop shoots a white person. [link to article about Dillon Taylor] 

If you're basing your observance of a pattern based on incidents that receive any media attention at all, then sure, it looks like it's open season on blacks. If you look at the actual statistics, more white guys are killed by black guys than the reverse, it just doesn't fit the narrative. 
In any case, the fix for this is not hand-wringing about race politics, but mandatory chest-cams for all officers on the beat such that there's no room for "interpretation" of the facts, when the camera will clearly show when an officer shoots an unarmed/nonthreatening suspect. Race is just further muddying up of the waters.

Sorry Z, I don't mean to phrase it like no white people are unjustly killed by police. But I wouldn't argue that no one cares about that- your link shows that people care. And J, yes, it's an injustice no matter what the race is. But there is a narrative against black people.

The problem is that everyone just assumes that Michael Brown was killed unjustly. Despite what the witnesses said right after the shooting. And there were huge riots and tons of media coverage about it. Here is a case [Dillon Taylor] where a black cop shoots an unarmed white man AND the cop was also wearing a body camera, yet the police department is refusing to release the video. Unlike the Michael Brown case, we can literally find out exactly what happened, but the police are trying to cover it up. This is what people should be really mad about.

Just to clarify- the "narrative" to which I refer is the story - not the reality - that racism is as systemic and epidemic as would be needed to justify ongoing special legal treatment being handed out to minorities in order to "make up" for the racism. The reality is that racism still exists, but there are far bigger issues with the way that our economic model is set up to create cycles that help keep the rich rich and help keep the poor poor, and economic classis the biggest predictor of violence, particularly law-enforcement-involving violence… Most of thetime, race is just a red herring being thrown out by ideologues to whip their followers into a frenzy for financial and/or political gain by that ideologue, which (in my opinion) is worse (or at least less honest) than just ignoring the problem in the first place.

Y [a woman of color]
Plain and simple, it's sad that a life is gone.

S [a black woman]
J, I agree that our economic model is deeply unjust, but to say that that is abigger issue than racism is flawed. The vast majority of poor people in our country are black and brown people. To say that racial injustice is separate from (and a smaller issue than) economic injustice is to completely ignore the ethnic make up of most of the people you're talking about and the history of injustice (economic and otherwise ) they have suffered because of their race. Unfortunately, economic and racial injustice have been linked for a long time in our country. You can't solve economic issues without solving the racial ones too. I know this can be hard to swallow for white people who haven't experienced what it's like to be in the minority, but it doesn't make it any less true.

I'm pretty sure that the people in whom racism is a distinctly separate issue from economics are a generation or two at most from simply dying out, and the rest of us don't really care. The race issues ultimately feed on the economic issue, which is obviously a bigger issue… Fundamentally, there are only two ways to read the "racism" debate. One way is to assume, at all odds with reality, that it's all the white man keeping minorities down, and therefore we need an ever-increasing body of law to correct the effects of this supposed systemic racism. The other is to recognize that economics is the major problem, and racism contributes somewhat to the over-representation of minorities stuck in the cycle, but doesn't explain the cycle itself.

[I declined to comment more on this post since J likes to have the last word. We continued the conversation in private.]

[link to my note, an incomplete systemic racism list]

I can't take that list seriously when the 2nd item on it (the Trayvon Martin incident) has been so thoroughly debunked… painting it as "white on black aggression" is a gross oversimplification at best, and basically flat-out wrong at worst.

I wouldn't [and didn’t] phrase it that way (white on black aggression). But I don't understand why you want to justify the killing of an unarmed teenager.

When you simplify it down to "killing an unarmed teenager" it sounds great.
The evidence suggests that he was a big muscular dude with a history of violence, who when confronted by Zimmerman (no two ways about it, this was a stupid thing for Zimmerman to do) attacked him. And Zimmerman, after getting knocked around a bit, was able to get to his gun and shot Trayvon. 
Zimmerman should have stayed in his car. But he didn't. When he didn't stay in his car, Trayvon should have minded his own. But he didn't. So there was wrong on both sides here.
Given that Martin attacked Zimmerman, Zimmerman was justified (legally and, in my opinion, ethically) in protecting himself from an… attacker using whatever force was necessary…

If that's what you believe, I'm sure I can't talk you out of it… Zimmerman says it was self defense. Maybe Trayvon would have said the same thing if he'd survived.

…What we do have are a few facts that strongly suggest self defense outside of a need to rely on peoples' words... so it's not as simple as "the survivor wrote the history"
I hope you don't think I am grasping at straws to excuse whites killing unarmed blacks
The incident described by the link you posted [John Crawford III] is inexcusable.The victim's race, however, doesn't somehow make it more inexcusable. Perhaps it explains the police officer's actions (if they were, in fact, motivated by race), but the part that should be offensive is the willful disregard for human life displayed by an officer of the law…

Your last comment on my post sounds to me like you think racism is almost gone, that after the old people die it won't exist. I disagree. If you want to work at justifying or explaining away every incident of racism, I'm sure you could make some arguments. It sounds like a lot of work to cover up a simple truth to me. And it's not something I can listen to. It would involve ignoring too many people's stories, telling them they are imagining things or that they don't matter. I can't tell my friend, "That person wasn't being racist toward you. You're interpreting it wrong. I don't care if it happens all the time. I'm the expert. I know what they were really doing." I'm choosing to listen to voices of people who have been disempowered.

I think you're getting caught up in the trees, and missing the forest. Individual acts of evil of any type are easy to find, but when you're talking about changing society the relevant scale to look at is the macro. I'm not unsympathetic to individual accounts, when and where they're actually valid, but using the Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown cases to prove that racism is real is a farce. If those are the anecdotes you're building a case upon... Then it's likely to be an unsupported case.
Anyway, that's my opinion. While I do enjoy a hearty debate every now and then, I didn't mean to start a fight, and I'm sorry if I did.

[several days later]
So,I've been mulling over what you said about Zimmerman, and I can't get anywhere with it. It keeps coming back to Stand Your Ground. Z initiated a confrontation. Maybe Trayvon could have run away, but he stood his ground. Maybe it didn't need to get physical, but according to Stand Your Ground, you can initiate violence when you feel in danger. You say Trayvon was winning the fight, but … it seems like Z could have run away at this point. But he decided to stand his ground. He felt threatened, so he increased the violence and ended a life. Both men stood their ground. Trayvon got the "death penalty" for it, Z was not punished. I see no justice.

…I feel like you're missing my point about that whole situation... yes, Zimmerman "initiated conflict" (in the sense of starting an argument, not necessarily an actual fight), but the evidence suggests that Trayvon… actually threw the first punch.
And, per Florida Law, one can be the "aggressor" in one stage of anincident, and become the "defender" in another… Trayvon didn't "stand his ground." He "counterattacked" and escalated the situation from an uncomfortable discussion into physical violence
If he had simply stood there and said "I have a right to be in this neighborhood, the same as you," then, if Zimmerman had shot him, Zimmerman would have unambiguously been guilty of murder.

…Maybe Trayvon said exactly those words; we'll never know because he's dead.

morally and ethically, Zimmerman shares a great deal of the blame for the whole thing.
…So no, it's not "right" that Trayvon is dead and Zimmerman didn't even serve jail time.
…The only reason the case even got national attention was because of media coverage of race-baiting ideologues who could misrepresent the facts enough to fit the narrative of white-on-black racism.
…It is, however, a story with a very high media profile (none of which it deserves), so it doesn't surprise me that it would find a place in a list purporting to "prove" a narrative of recent violent racism against blacks from whites. But its inclusion on such a list doesn't speak well for the other incidents on the list...
I just don't think there's any ambiguity in this case, despite the desperate attempts of race ideologues to present the situation as such. And while I understand and applaud your compassion forTrayvon, I think it's important not to be blinded by compassion to the actual facts of the case…

…from my perspective, you are making every effort to give Z the benefit of the doubt, and every effort to give no doubt of guilt to T.
You suggest that a calm, deferential attitude on Trayvon's part would have defused this situation, and that is was his responsibility to do so. After being chased by a strange man...

… To summarize, I think there's every reason to declare Zimmerman guilty of poor judgment on a number of levels, from getting out of his car in the first place to putting himself in arm's reach of Trayvon at all, much less without having his weapon at the ready.
And nothing in the entire story has anything to do with racism, systemic or otherwise, between a dominant white culture and an oppressed minority black culture…

I appreciate that you are self-aware that you are using too many words in a discussion. … [shared a humorous memory of J]
Since you are already aware, can I encourage you to take action on it? One practical way to do this would be by taking more time to reflect rather than immediately responding to a comment or question. (And personally, it would help me feel respected and my words valued.)
Hope you are well.

[immediately after]
I wouldn't really say that I use too many words... just that the volume of words has been lopsided in this conversation, and that while I realize it I want to be clear that I wasn't trying to "talk you into submission", as my wife might say.
But regardless, I hope that you're well also.

[several days later]
Your wife sounds like a wise woman. Maybe she has other suggestions about this? I do think it's too many words for a conversation... Also, I still feel like you aren't truly listening to me, since I asked for a reflection time, and you still immediately responded... Does that make sense?

While I can understand how you might get the mistaken impression that I haven't been listening to you, I don't see where you actually 'asked' for time to reflect. I'm not saying that to place blame, but to explain that I truly didn't mean to overwhelm you through volume of words or rapidity of response, so I'm sorry for not picking up on that.