Editor’s note: This post originally appeared as a Facebook note penned a few days after the Zimmerman verdict was rendered.
To my beloved brothers Timothy and Stephen:
I’m sorry that you still live in a society where you are deemed “suspicious” simply due to the color of your skin, your style of clothing, and the speed of your gait. I’m sorry that you can be profiled, stalked, and questioned by armed vigilantes who fancy themselves a cross between Batman and John Wayne, but that your only legal recourse appears to be to grin and take it, to treat them as reasonable, calmly answer their questions, “Yessir/Nosir” and shuck and jive your way out of suspicion. Our country has improved with every generation; don’t get me wrong – our great-grandfather was a slave, his son was a doctor in the segregated South, his son – our dad – was born in a “Negro Hospital,” and now we have a black president. Progress is being made – but we’re obviously not yet where we as a country want to be.
To others who are profiled according to the color of their skin – to my Hispanic (or otherwise brown-skinned) brothers and sisters in Arizona and Alabama, where such profiling has been essentially enshrined in law: I am just as sorry. If you know me, you know I’m working to do what I can, but I’m still sorry that you are subject to not just mental profiling and others’ internal suspicion, but action taken based on such suspicion.
To my brothers and sisters of Middle Eastern descent: I’m sorry for dirty looks and comments and prejudiced actions to which I know you’re also subject. In particular, I think of a Lebanese Christian by the name of Jihad – which is actually a fairly common name – whom I sat next to on a flight a few years back. I’m sorry that you were strip searched and detained; after all your service to our military, your treatment was especially shameful. I’m sorry that the TSA agents wouldn’t let you reach into your bag to procure your military ID.
To anyone – anyone – who is judged primarily by your physical appearance, I am so sorry for that reality. I know this category is not limited to race/ethnicity – I think of my brothers and sisters with physical disabilities, whose identities are too often neatly summed up by society by simply defining their visible physical attributes. I think of my brothers and sisters whose societally perceived physical beauty or lack thereof is used to make judgments about their intelligence, or my homeless brothers and sisters whose moral character is put on trial simply due to their lack of a roof over their heads. But I focused mostly on race/ethnicity in this note simply because that’s what’s heaviest on my mind due to current events.
One day, I pray that the beautiful words I memorized in 6th grade will be more than a dream and will be fully realized – that we will live in a country and society where people are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Until that day comes, I pray God gives me the wisdom, strength, knowledge, and ability to do my part toward achieving that goal.
Daniel Watts graduated from Wheaton College in August 2012 and is the G92 Coordinator.
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