I have been thinking about a pair of youth, brothers, who were in the first congregation where I served. That church had a bit of racial and ethnic diversity, similar to Christ Church, but was fairly white. These teenage boys were born in the US with parents from Nigeria. At that time, there was a lot of concern about racial profiling in the northern suburbs of Chicago where the congregation was. The elder of the brothers, and the more talkative of the two, had some surgery and so I had a chance to have some longer conversations with him while I and one of the youth group leaders visited him in the hospital.

During those times, one of the things that I asked him was whether he had ever been pulled over without an obvious cause. He had and talked about that experience in a very matter of fact way; it had happened to his brother as well, while walking the dog in their own neighborhood. The youth group leader, himself a father of two sons, was saddened and disappointed, as was I. But for him, he also realized and reflected on the fact that it was likely that his sons, being white, would never have the same experience.

I've been remembering those conversations in the weeks since the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was released. I have been continuing to think about the right response to his acquittal. Perhaps there is not just one right response but a continuum of responses. At the core, I think that conversation is key – conversation and real, intentional, deep, open listening to our brothers and sisters as we each share our personal stories and presumptions of what is normal behavior to expect in public. Aside from the specifics of the verdict in this trial, I do believe that racism still exists in our country. We are not past racism and other prejudicial ways of thinking, behaving, believing, and acting. And so I pray…

God of compassion, you have reconciled us in Jesus Christ who is our peace: Enable us to live as Jesus lived, breaking down walls of hostility and healing enmity. Give us grace to make peace with those from whom we are divided, that, forgiven and forgiving, we may ever be one in Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever, one holy and undivided Trinity. Amen. (from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints, 2009, page 737.)