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Teenís death prompts discussion about meaning of justicecomment (0)

April 5, 2012

Teenís death prompts discussion about meaning of justice

Amid the backlash surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin, Baptist leaders are calling for proper investigation in the case as well as discussions about racial issues.

“We need to encourage the authorities to do a thorough investigation and make certain that justice is done,” said Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “[W]e sadly in this country have a history where ... oftentimes when the victims were black, there was not justice.”

Martin, a 17-year-old high school student, was killed by George Zimmerman, a Hispanic neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Fla., in February. Zimmerman has not been arrested and said he acted in self-defense. Nationwide, dialogue on race relations has erupted.

D’Linell Finley Sr., pastor of Southlawn Baptist Church, Montgomery, said, “The question is whether Mr. Zimmerman should be charged with the shooting of Trayvon Martin. That is the central issue.

“Based on all the information as it is slowly coming out, it appears that Mr. Zimmerman was clearly in the wrong,” said Finley, a professor of American constitutional law and the American legal system at Alabama State University in Montgomery. “In a criminal case, rather than trying to pursue an angle, you should look straightforward at the facts.”

Stick to the facts

“There was a shooting. Was it justified? If not, look at the circumstances surrounding it and then go from there,” he said.

John King Jr., associate executive director for Birmingham Baptist Association who formerly worked with African-American churches, pointed out a family has lost a son. “My heart goes out to them,” he said. “These things do happen as far as racial profiling goes, but it is wrong. No matter who it is, it is wrong.”

Finley agreed Zimmerman did judge Martin by his race and clothing. “[He] looked at the individual and his race and what he was wearing and decided that this person was up to no good. I’m disturbed that he kept emphasizing that this person is black and looked like he was up to no good. 

“Christians in general … need to be very careful to rush to judgment. … We need to rethink or reaffirm our values as Christians,” he said. “We need to be careful about looking at the race or appearance of a person and allowing us (to use that) to determine whether the person is good or bad.” 

King also said open and honest discussions about racial issues need to happen.

“It is unfortunate that it has taken a tragic situation to bring this back to the forefront … but we need to get together and talk about these types of situations,” he said. “We need to have open discussions about issues that affect all of us … whether directly or indirectly … and improve the quality of life for everybody.”

Land, in an appearance on CNN’s “Starting Point” March 23, said, “Whenever something like this happens, the ghosts of the past rise up and they haunt us because our past in this country is tragic. It is sad, and there’s no question.”

At the same time, Land noted, “to call someone a racist is about the worst thing you can call somebody ... and rightly so. So we don’t want to throw that term around flippantly. ... When we scream ‘racism’ at the drop of a hat, it cheapens the term and makes it more difficult to deal with racism when there really is racism,” he said.

Finley added that both white and black people are expressing outrage over this incident.

“You have seen cross-racial goodwill in this case,” he said. “If you’ve noticed a protest calling for investigation ... you’ve had black and white people calling for an investigation. ... You have had white people who were close to the scene coming out expressing a version (of the story) different than what Mr. Zimmerman is saying.

“Christians and other people of goodwill should continue to do what you’ve seen happen across the nation,” Finley said. 


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