Trayvon Martin Case: An Opportunity for Soul-Searching
The verdict in the case of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman has surfaced many feelings and much discussion. On Friday, July 19, President Obama spoke of his own experiences of being suspect because of his skin color. He challenged U.S. citizens saying, “I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching.” Father Bryan Massingale, an African-American priest who is a theology professor at Marquette University, has also spoken out about his own experiences with racial bias. What is at the core of both men’s experiences is the inability of many of us to, as Fr. Massingale says, “extend to a minority the same recognition of humanity, and hence the same sympathy and care, given as a matter of course to one’s own group.” Though this particular case raises concerns for African-Americans, the issue is much broader. It’s about the difficulty we have in accepting diversity and treating those who are different from us with respect.
Catholic Social Teaching calls us to “solidarity’, the understanding that we are all members of one human family, sharing equal human dignity. Jesus told us to love our neighbor. As Catholics and as Franciscans, we believe in the inherent dignity of each person, and strive to grow in our ability to treat each person with respect. We challenge ourselves and those who share our values to do some soul-searching, to work at rooting out the biases we have and the judgments we make, to recognize and acknowledge more clearly that we are all brothers and sisters in the one human family, and to reach out to people of other cultures, building bridges and promoting reconciliation.
Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
Franciscan Friars (OFM) of St. John the Baptist Province