The tragic loss of a young life to the hands of a gunman is so sadly typical in a rough inner city neighborhood despite its racial orientation. On Sunday February 26, 2012, Ms. Sybrina Fulton and Mr. Tracy Martin suffered the sudden and tragic loss of their son Treyvon Martin to the hands of a gunman. In the media today we all discuss the supposed facts of the case of yet another senseless killing. The most unnatural of all tragedies is to have a mother enter into the abysmal and chaotic season of having to bury the child she carried and bore into this world.
The murder of a human being is not the only tragic story here. There are two corresponding tragedies that lead to a bigger conversation that should occur and it doesn’t emanate from the hot button topics such as abortion or the legalization of same sex unions. It’s even bigger than who is best qualified to lead this country. The conversation I speak of needs take place privately within ourselves and publicly as a community on the topic of what should be bilateral criteria for dealing with race relations in this country. The corresponding tragedy is the fact that our nation is losing its direction.
THE LOSS OF DIRECTION
The second tragedy is a bit more convoluted. This tragedy is called the loss of direction. Not the direction of Treyvon or his accused killer, I’m speaking of the direction of an entire nation. It’s quite obvious that our country is still a grotesquely divided society on the issue of race because of all the emotion, hate speak that surface during elections, politics overall, social topics and life stories. There has been a death in the American family and we all have different perspectives for our account of the facts.
Although the dead family member has been gone for hundreds of years; the heinous and infectious spirit of the murderer continues to haunt and permeate the minds of succeeding generations with their vivid penchant for discord and death.
There is an axiom of unknown origin that says, “ watch your thoughts for they become your words, watch your words for they become your actions, watch your actions for they become your habit, watch your habit for it becomes your character and watch your character for it will become your destiny.
Our beloved American pop culture has become so casual about our obligations that we feel no requirement to go the extra mile about anything.
As an ordained Elder, I’ve counseled individuals and families who seem to find more comfort in why they shouldn’t strive to grow and become better personally than what is it about their character and choices that got them into the positions they are suffering through. When it comes to race, adults need to carefully consider the price of the words and actions they condone before they partake. As children we were once taught that part of the obligation of being an adult is adults are supposed to think before they speak and act. If we continue to lower our social standards, our posture and our psyche will eventually suffer
Our neighbors around the world see us as a hypocritical nation because we say one thing in private around the dinner table, do another thing in public and yet vote an entirely different mindset in the voting booth. It’s one thing to scream “let’s go to war” in another country and entirely another when your son or daughter is on the front line or you have relatives living there. There is more of a discussion than just race. There should be a discussion among parents, educators, ministers and politicians about why people want to see blood despite who is hurting.
In September of 1967, the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the American Psychological Association (APA) in San Francisco, CA. about the issue of race. So where is the story you ask? Lean in closer. The APA actually explored the merits of racism being more of a mental health issue than that of a social one. The mental health aspect of racism is an issue that you would not here about in these times, because it would mean that the individual would have to be responsible and mature enough to take an inward journey. Based on our trends our nation would choose to find the mission as difficult as training one’s self to not indulge in too much TV, and a diet steeped in high sodium, sugar and fat.
In the scheme of a timeline our nation’s culture is only 236 years old compared to other world cultures that are thousands of years old. This age comparison and our societal track record depicts us as the spoiled rich teenager that keeps crashing their sports car and gets angry that the deployed airbags keep messing up their hair.
I love this country that has given me so many liberties and opportunities as an entrepreneur, but when you truly love someone you must see them through the eyes of truth in order to care for them appropriately. Part of this truth is that our nation is very gracious and kind to nations less fortunate than we are. As a country founded on Christian principles with such an immeasurable amount of grace, this is expected of us. On the domestic side, we are like that stubborn family member who keeps ignoring the critical symptoms that tell them it’s time for a check-up. Our culture is dying a slow death and unlike our economy it’s not fixed by the infusion of cash.
Truth shows how this land we call our home was founded by immigrants and how we took it over. We’ve adopted other nationalities and cultures into our home but like many adoptive families there are skirmishes between the blood relatives (the Anglo) and the adoptive ones (persons of color).
The blood relatives feel that their birthright is challenged and that they don’t have to fully accept this granted equality to their adoptive siblings by the parents. So there lies this deep seeded resentment that rears itself from time to time. My wife and children experience it all the time when we, as a blended family, go out together especially to our children’s sporting events and community functions.
I am a black man born in Guyana, South America and raised in Brooklyn, NY and my wife is of Polish decent and was raised in Downers Grove, Illinois. We have three children from previous marriages. My two sons are as darkly complected as I am and my daughter is as a blonde and blue eyed as my wife. This makes for an entertaining sight in the small rural Central Floridian town we live in.
There are times that we get the most adoring smiles of sincere admiration due to the love they perceive that we have for each other. Then there are times that the spirit of hatred in the air for our family unit is as thick as what I imagine it would have been like the day before the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. Due to the striking difference between our family and our neighbors we are quite the celebrity family in our community especially when we walk our three-two hundred pound English Mastiffs; purely a sight to see.
Our children have grown up together for the past eight years and are now more comfortable with each other than they are with their friends. That wasn’t always the case. This was a journey based on prayer, commitment and consistent communication from my wife and me to our children; something that most families no longer make the time to do. As a family steeped in their Christian beliefs, we teach our children the importance of spiritual accountability before social acceptance. Most children today aren’t taught much at home at all except how to mimic trends and how to fly beneath the radar from what is deemed as “real trouble.” Parents want to fit in with their kids and become their friends instead of their parents.
Regardless if your God is called Allah, Buddha or Krishna; your interpretation on life and its people should not be hinged on the today’s special on the social menu. It should be validated by a deeper sense of spiritual-self with familial accountability. The American family unit has lost their sense for the need to do what is needed and appropriate. The modern American family does its fair share of overlooking the social haunting concerning the murderous thoughts that sustain the racial divide.
We need to plan and schedule conversations with our spouse, children as well as our patriarchs and matriarchs on where this smoldering intolerance for other races and cultures began within our own family. If we can’t seem to pinpoint or find any breach in our family lineage, then we need to craft a clear understanding that we may want to share with our circle of influence at the appropriate time. Teaching our children to view hate speak toward other cultures in the same frame of mind as profanity is a great start to breaking generational cycles of racial intolerance.
THE LOSS OF DIRECTION
In two of my books I reference an original phrase; “Truth merits no reward nor does it dignify a response. Truth is supreme therefore unimpeachable.” The beautiful thing about truth is that once you learn to embrace her, she will never betray you nor will you ever be taken by surprise. This loss of direction is perhaps the most painful for many to accept. Our thoughts are our most private possession. If someone steals your wallet they may be able to steal and use your identity but they can’t steal your thoughts. Unless your way of thinking is changed, your thoughts will eventually become your destiny.
There are a lot people in cemeteries, prisons and hospitals who have never been taught how to address the value of their thoughts. Our churches are supposed to do just that. Our televised mega churches are more focused on the show and the “ah ha” moment of their sermon than actually changing the character and the behaviors of the people before they hit the streets. Most leave churches thinking and speaking the same way they got there an hour or two earlier. Throughout history very few positions in society are more unimpeachable than the sanctity of our clergy and good and Godly pastoral counsel. Lately we have seen that our men and women truly have feet of clay and make critical mistakes too. This is okay because the only perfect example of flawlessness is God. We shouldn’t worship the man or woman of God, we should search out and worship God.
As one who has been in ministry for 23 years I can say I have seen the best and the worst of my colleagues in the faith, myself included. In the area of teaching racial and multi-cultural acceptance, most church Pastor’s fail abysmally in this area. Most pastors are only concerned about affecting the temperature of their own church rather than the atmosphere of the community they claim to serve. The reason why most soft pedal the areas of family dysfunctionality, sexuality and race education is because they fear the affect it will have on their bottom line (tithes and offerings).
That’s right, the church is a business too and if the brand integrity becomes compromised then the brand loyalty will fail and declining sales will cause the doors to close. There are Pastors in our nation who see the ministry as show business and they are the stars and God is the supporting actor. Here’s the kicker that will blow your mind. There are Pastors in our nation who are leading immense congregations who do not even follow Godly counsel for the things they say and do. Yes, they do not even pray. So how are we to determine who to follow and who to run from? This is covered more in depth in my forthcoming book, “Hollywood In The Pulpit; The Best Actors Are Not In Pictures”, due out in October 2012.
There was a time that all the societal ills were addressed in the church and discussed at the dinner table. But the churches have become more of a gathering extension of social media for emotional and motivational talks rather than mind changing teaching; and our dinner tables have been replaced by the downloadable app. Hold your place of worship accountable to service by first making yourself available to serve.
The people fail the church in one key area. We as a society are so tied into our sensory gratification that we lose touch with the fact that we are spiritual beings having a human encounter, we twist it and perceive it as humans having an occasional spiritual encounter. We go to church as though attending a Broadway show expecting to be entertained and changed from the exterior inward. We expect the men and women of God to serve as priest, magician and therapist. If we profess to be spiritually enlightened beings we should focus our church engagement in one area and that is to seek a supernatural and life changing connection with God despite the distractions in our life.
Then and only then will we have a mind style change. If you allow a change to your mind style then your lifestyle must change as well. There is no way in Heaven, earth or hell that you can profess the most remote sense of love for God and be a bigot of any kind. So much for Christian conservatives who deem and vote down policies that elevate the consciousness of our nation and the lifestyle of the lower 10%. Christians must learn that you cannot vote for someone to legislate your belief system. Politicians are here to lead all people and all faiths, not just yours. This system was attempted before with the Roman Empire and it didn’t work so well for the person of faith. It is the role of Pastors and spiritual leadership to handle the religious and spiritual agendas.
Jesus was neither a democrat nor a Republican; He was neither a socialist nor a capitalist. He fore knew man’s penchant since the Garden of Eden to aspire to be god. Man desires to judge and demean so therefore God maintains a one-party system and that is His theocracy.
In essence the church is not teaching our minds as much as it stirs our emotions and our spirits. The church leaders are not totally to blame. The church, synagogue or mosque is not the building you attend, it’s you. If you profess to be devout in your faith, how about challenging the mindset of those you know to be bigoted or elitist in their thinking. Hold your spiritual leaders accountable to the social impact of racism as you see it in your community. Ask them to address the news stories and their slant toward the truth. If the response is somewhat lacking, perhaps it may be incumbent upon you to ask your spiritual leader if you can begin this discussion in a group setting with their blessing.
THE LOSS OF DIRECTION
Many Americans feel that there is already too much media hype of any controversial issue especially sensitive issues as the Treyvon Martin tragedy. Here’s the fact of the matter. The media is the new and ultimate Global Superpower. The media has more influence than the President, The United Nations and any world leader for that matter. The media even has more influence than your mom and dad. The role of the media is to spread the information in a way that secures its brand loyalty, ratings and revenue stream above that of its competitor.
Long gone are the days that media conglomerates as a whole actually put truth in the interest of the public before their profit margin. There was a time that this was a requirement to maintain your FCC license. As a former NYC radio talk show producer and Public Affairs Director, I rarely see this as the case anymore.
The media’s role is to make the news and education of the public entertaining, otherwise they lose ratings and people lose their jobs. This is a difficult line to walk and it requires really smart people who also have a heart for humanity to make it successful. When people say that it’s the fault of the media that race issues are covered so poorly they need to remember that the media isn’t supposed to be our moral compass; we’re supposed to have morals to filter the stuff we see and hear. There was a time that the mom and dad figures in our life talked to us about watching the company we kept.
Today we need to understand that this new Global Superpower called the media is the new neighbor down the block with the gorgeous and sexy wife and the husband that looks like every leading man in Hollywood. They both have been divorced twice and their kids have everything your kids want. This family is up to date on all the latest clothes, gadgets and digital media. They all have 4,500 friends on Facebook and 10,000 followers on twitter. The only thing your current neighborhood envies about your mundane life is that these new neighbors live on your block. Let’s face it; the media is not going anywhere. It is the new god and in my estimation with slight modification, the media has all the characteristics of the anti-Christ. So we should be less critical of the values of something that is no longer built to be a moral compass except for those few who run the media that actually care about the destiny of a nation.
THE LOSS OF DIRECTION
Very simply let’s consider the fact that our nation’s destiny is incumbent upon the personal destiny decided by its citizens. Regardless of your spiritual orientation or your stand as an atheist; science and life has proven that what you are at your core will ultimately determine your fate or the fate of something or someone you love. We have lost our reverence for penalties. Being ignorant of a law doesn’t absolve you of the penalty for breaking that law. If you speed all the time, the law of averages will come into play upon your driving record, your wallet or a life.
On a personal level ask yourself if the people who belong to the phone numbers on your contacts list all look and think like you. If this is the case, please realize that racial tolerance and acceptance for social change is a personal one; not an academic or professional one. If embracing people of all cultures is not part of your social circle then you are living with the haunting remnants of the problem and not the solution.
Lives are lost by the thousands everyday around the world. Homeless bodies without ID’s are buried in potter’s fields all across this planet. We must reconnect with our senses and realize all life is precious; American lives, black lives, white lives, both young and old and male and female. In any culture or color a mother is still a mother and a child is still a child. The problem and the solution for racial intolerance lie within each of us on a daily basis. We cannot continue to ignore this societal haunting of a historic tragedy that repeats itself randomly in every culture that makes up the American tapestry of families.
Racism and social indifference is a personal psychological ill that can be fixed the same way that our addiction to unhealthy food can be altered. It’s a matter of self-empowerment. Where do we place our value system and what do we call personal growth? Let’s ask ourselves if what we choose to dine our lives on is consistent with the outcome we expect.