WHAT DO YOU DO WITH RAGE?

REFLECTIONS ON THE DENIAL OF JUSTICE TO TRAYVON MARTIN

Pastoral Statement, July 14, 2013

 

In 1961 at a symposium on “The Negro in American Culture,” the writer James

Baldwin said, “To be Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a

rage almost all of the time. So that the first problem is how to control rage so that it

won’t destroy you.” On this the fourteenth of July, 2013, the birthday of my late father

Rev. Matthew A. Watley, I unashamedly declare my anger, disgust and outrage at the

verdict of “Not Guilty” given to George Zimmerman who stalked and maliciously shot

and murdered young seventeen year old Trayvon Martin in cold blood, whose only crime

was WWB...walking while black.

 

I express my anger, disgust and outrage at the denial of justice that has

characterized this case beginning with the fact that a national movement of protest had to

be mounted before George Zimmermann was even arrested for his heinous and barbaric

deed. I express my anger, disgust and outrage at the weak, half-hearted, non-committed

fledgling efforts of the prosecution who was supposed to be trying to secure justice for

young Trayvon.

 

And I express my anger, disgust and outrage at the fact that this “Not guilty”

verdict expresses a long continuous truth that in this country black life is still undervalued

and considered expendable. Time will not permit and the list is too long to call the roll of

black victims of vigilantism and racial hatred. However, I cannot help but think of the

term “strange fruit", as expressed in the song of the same name the late Billie Holiday,

that often hung from southern trees by lynch mobs as well as the bullet riddled and

bludgeoned bodies of northern victims of police brutality and racial hatred. I can’t help

but remember Emmet Till of my childhood, the four little girls who were bombed while

they attended church of my teenage years and now young Trayvon Martin in my maturing years, and any number of nameless and faceless victims in between.

 

Now that I have expressed by anger, disgust and outrage, I also must confront the

truth of James Baldwin’s statement that unrestrained and unchecked outrage can destroy

you. What do you do about rage, which can define your character and dominate your

countenance if you are even a partly self-conscious African American? Rage left

unchecked can consume you. Whenever uncontrolled rage has boiled over in our

communities, black masses have burned their own homes and wrecked their own

neighborhoods. Uncontrolled rage has also resulted in a black pathology and the

destruction of black life, the killing of black young people, the violence against black

women, and the terrorizing of black seniors. These are issues that we must begin to

address ourselves.

 

Rather than the self-destructive pathology of uncontrolled and untreated rage, I

submit that first we make a self-conscious decision to channel rage into the ministry and

witness of reconciliation. What I said in my earlier statement on behalf of Trayvon

Martin remains true, “we refuse to hate blindly and become infected with the same racial

bile and cancer, which have already poisoned the lives of so many in the majority culture.

The present crisis is not a white versus black fight, but a fight for justice over injustice.”

 

I would remind us that reconciliation is neither easy nor cheap, but rather is

difficult and costly. Reconciliation cost God the life of his Son. And to paraphrase

theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer, what cost God dearly cannot be acquired cheaply by us.”

No wonder our Lord declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the

children of God.”

 

Secondly, we must make a conscious decision to channel rage into referral. We

refer the parents of Trayvon Martin to God who alone can comfort, sustain and empower

them in the face of such a tragic and senseless loss and denial of justice.

 

We also refer George Zimmerman into the hands of Almighty God, the righteous

judge of all the earth who will do right, who declared through his prophet Jeremiah, "Do

not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not

let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast, boast in this, that they

understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice and

righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.” When all of the

legal proceedings are finished, George Zimmerman must stand before the judgment seat

of Christ and give an account of his murder of Trayvon Martin and according to the word

of God he will reap, beginning in this life, what he has sown.

 

Third, we must make a conscious decision to channel rage into a renewal of

freedom, justice and quality of life for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, our

great grandchildren and generations yet unborn. We are not going anywhere and we will

not be turned around or dissuaded from pursuing the vision God has for our lives that is

greater than any vision we can have for ourselves or that others can have for us. The

blood of our ancestors from the middle passage, through the period of chattel slavery,

through the retrenchment of post reconstruction, through all of the wars we have fought

in, through the Civil Rights struggle, and up until this present time demands that we press

on. The blood of young Trayvon Martin, like the blood of Abel, calls to us from the

ground and demands that we press on. The blood that Jesus shed for us way back on

Calvary calls us and covers us in our quest for the destiny God has for us. The message

from just last Sunday reminds us not to get mad and not to get even, but to get superior.

 

We will get superior! And we will overcome because:

 

Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chast’ning rod,

Felt in days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat have not our weary feet

Come to the place for which our people sighed

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered;

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;

Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last

Where the bright gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,

Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who hast by Thy might, Led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the past we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places our God where we met Thee,

Lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world we forget Thee;

Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand,

True to our God, true to our native land.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH RAGE?

REFLECTIONS ON THE DENIAL OF JUSTICE TO TRAYVON MARTIN

Pastoral Statement, July 14, 2013

In 1961 at a symposium on “The Negro in American Culture,” the writer James

Baldwin said, “To be Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a

rage almost all of the time. So that the first problem is how to control rage so that it

won’t destroy you.” On this the fourteenth of July, 2013, the birthday of my late father

Rev. Matthew A. Watley, I unashamedly declare my anger, disgust and outrage at the

verdict of “Not Guilty” given to George Zimmerman who stalked and maliciously shot

and murdered young seventeen year old Trayvon Martin in cold blood, whose only crime

was WWB...walking while black.

I express my anger, disgust and outrage at the denial of justice that has

characterized this case beginning with the fact that a national movement of protest had to

be mounted before George Zimmermann was even arrested for his heinous and barbaric

deed. I express my anger, disgust and outrage at the weak, half-hearted, non-committed

fledgling efforts of the prosecution who was supposed to be trying to secure justice for

young Trayvon.

And I express my anger, disgust and outrage at the fact that this “Not guilty”

verdict expresses a long continuous truth that in this country black life is still undervalued

and considered expendable. Time will not permit and the list is too long to call the roll of

black victims of vigilantism and racial hatred. However, I cannot help but think of the

term “strange fruit", as expressed in the song of the same name the late Billie Holiday,

that often hung from southern trees by lynch mobs as well as the bullet riddled and

bludgeoned bodies of northern victims of police brutality and racial hatred. I can’t help

but remember Emmet Till of my childhood, the four little girls who were bombed while

they attended church of my teenage years and now young Trayvon Martin in my maturing

years, and any number of nameless and faceless victims in between.

Now that I have expressed by anger, disgust and outrage, I also must confront the

truth of James Baldwin’s statement that unrestrained and unchecked outrage can destroy

!2

you. What do you do about rage, which can define your character and dominate your

countenance if you are even a partly self-conscious African American? Rage left

unchecked can consume you. Whenever uncontrolled rage has boiled over in our

communities, black masses have burned their own homes and wrecked their own

neighborhoods. Uncontrolled rage has also resulted in a black pathology and the

destruction of black life, the killing of black young people, the violence against black

women, and the terrorizing of black seniors. These are issues that we must begin to

address ourselves.

Rather than the self-destructive pathology of uncontrolled and untreated rage, I

submit that first we make a self-conscious decision to channel rage into the ministry and

witness of reconciliation. What I said in my earlier statement on behalf of Trayvon

Martin remains true, “we refuse to hate blindly and become infected with the same racial

bile and cancer, which have already poisoned the lives of so many in the majority culture.

The present crisis is not a white versus black fight, but a fight for justice over injustice.”

I would remind us that reconciliation is neither easy nor cheap, but rather is

difficult and costly. Reconciliation cost God the life of his Son. And to paraphrase

theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer, what cost God dearly cannot be acquired cheaply by us.”

No wonder our Lord declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the

children of God.”

Secondly, we must make a conscious decision to channel rage into referral. We

refer the parents of Trayvon Martin to God who alone can comfort, sustain and empower

them in the face of such a tragic and senseless loss and denial of justice.

We also refer George Zimmerman into the hands of Almighty God, the righteous

judge of all the earth who will do right, who declared through his prophet Jeremiah, "Do

not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not

let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast, boast in this, that they

understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice and

righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.” When all of the

legal proceedings are finished, George Zimmerman must stand before the judgment seat

!3

of Christ and give an account of his murder of Trayvon Martin and according to the word

of God he will reap, beginning in this life, what he has sown.

Third, we must make a conscious decision to channel rage into a renewal of

freedom, justice and quality of life for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, our

great grandchildren and generations yet unborn. We are not going anywhere and we will

not be turned around or dissuaded from pursuing the vision God has for our lives that is

greater than any vision we can have for ourselves or that others can have for us. The

blood of our ancestors from the middle passage, through the period of chattel slavery,

through the retrenchment of post reconstruction, through all of the wars we have fought

in, through the Civil Rights struggle, and up until this present time demands that we press

on. The blood of young Trayvon Martin, like the blood of Abel, calls to us from the

ground and demands that we press on. The blood that Jesus shed for us way back on

Calvary calls us and covers us in our quest for the destiny God has for us. The message

from just last Sunday reminds us not to get mad and not to get even, but to get superior.

We will get superior! And we will overcome because:

Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chast’ning rod,

Felt in days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat have not our weary feet

Come to the place for which our people sighed

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered;

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;

Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last

Where the bright gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,

Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who hast by Thy might, Led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the past we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places our God where we met Thee,

Lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world we forget Thee;

Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand,

True to our God, true to our native land.

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH RAGE?

REFLECTIONS ON THE DENIAL OF JUSTICE TO TRAYVON MARTIN

Pastoral Statement, July 14, 2013

 

In 1961 at a symposium on “The Negro in American Culture,” the writer James

Baldwin said, “To be Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a

rage almost all of the time. So that the first problem is how to control rage so that it

won’t destroy you.” On this the fourteenth of July, 2013, the birthday of my late father

Rev. Matthew A. Watley, I unashamedly declare my anger, disgust and outrage at the

verdict of “Not Guilty” given to George Zimmerman who stalked and maliciously shot

and murdered young seventeen year old Trayvon Martin in cold blood, whose only crime

was WWB...walking while black.

 

I express my anger, disgust and outrage at the denial of justice that has

characterized this case beginning with the fact that a national movement of protest had to

be mounted before George Zimmermann was even arrested for his heinous and barbaric

deed. I express my anger, disgust and outrage at the weak, half-hearted, non-committed

fledgling efforts of the prosecution who was supposed to be trying to secure justice for

young Trayvon.

 

And I express my anger, disgust and outrage at the fact that this “Not guilty”

verdict expresses a long continuous truth that in this country black life is still undervalued

and considered expendable. Time will not permit and the list is too long to call the roll of

black victims of vigilantism and racial hatred. However, I cannot help but think of the

term “strange fruit", as expressed in the song of the same name the late Billie Holiday,

that often hung from southern trees by lynch mobs as well as the bullet riddled and

bludgeoned bodies of northern victims of police brutality and racial hatred. I can’t help

but remember Emmet Till of my childhood, the four little girls who were bombed while

they attended church of my teenage years and now young Trayvon Martin in my maturing years, and any number of nameless and faceless victims in between.

 

Now that I have expressed by anger, disgust and outrage, I also must confront the

truth of James Baldwin’s statement that unrestrained and unchecked outrage can destroy

you. What do you do about rage, which can define your character and dominate your

countenance if you are even a partly self-conscious African American? Rage left

unchecked can consume you. Whenever uncontrolled rage has boiled over in our

communities, black masses have burned their own homes and wrecked their own

neighborhoods. Uncontrolled rage has also resulted in a black pathology and the

destruction of black life, the killing of black young people, the violence against black

women, and the terrorizing of black seniors. These are issues that we must begin to

address ourselves.

 

Rather than the self-destructive pathology of uncontrolled and untreated rage, I

submit that first we make a self-conscious decision to channel rage into the ministry and

witness of reconciliation. What I said in my earlier statement on behalf of Trayvon

Martin remains true, “we refuse to hate blindly and become infected with the same racial

bile and cancer, which have already poisoned the lives of so many in the majority culture.

The present crisis is not a white versus black fight, but a fight for justice over injustice.”

 

I would remind us that reconciliation is neither easy nor cheap, but rather is

difficult and costly. Reconciliation cost God the life of his Son. And to paraphrase

theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer, what cost God dearly cannot be acquired cheaply by us.”

No wonder our Lord declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the

children of God.”

 

Secondly, we must make a conscious decision to channel rage into referral. We

refer the parents of Trayvon Martin to God who alone can comfort, sustain and empower

them in the face of such a tragic and senseless loss and denial of justice.

 

We also refer George Zimmerman into the hands of Almighty God, the righteous

judge of all the earth who will do right, who declared through his prophet Jeremiah, "Do

not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not

let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast, boast in this, that they

understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice and

righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.” When all of the

legal proceedings are finished, George Zimmerman must stand before the judgment seat

of Christ and give an account of his murder of Trayvon Martin and according to the word

of God he will reap, beginning in this life, what he has sown.

 

Third, we must make a conscious decision to channel rage into a renewal of

freedom, justice and quality of life for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, our

great grandchildren and generations yet unborn. We are not going anywhere and we will

not be turned around or dissuaded from pursuing the vision God has for our lives that is

greater than any vision we can have for ourselves or that others can have for us. The

blood of our ancestors from the middle passage, through the period of chattel slavery,

through the retrenchment of post reconstruction, through all of the wars we have fought

in, through the Civil Rights struggle, and up until this present time demands that we press

on. The blood of young Trayvon Martin, like the blood of Abel, calls to us from the

ground and demands that we press on. The blood that Jesus shed for us way back on

Calvary calls us and covers us in our quest for the destiny God has for us. The message

from just last Sunday reminds us not to get mad and not to get even, but to get superior.

 

We will get superior! And we will overcome because:

 

Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chast’ning rod,

Felt in days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat have not our weary feet

Come to the place for which our people sighed

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered;

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;

Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last

Where the bright gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,

Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who hast by Thy might, Led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the past we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places our God where we met Thee,

Lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world we forget Thee;

Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand,

True to our God, true to our native land.