Sunday, July 21, 2013

Father Bryan Massingale on Trayvon Martin Story: A Sacrifice at the Altar of White Fear

As Bryan Massingale, a Catholic priest and theologian who is African American, processes what happened with the George Zimmerman trial, he comes to the same conclusion that President Obama has also reached as an African-American male: 

For I not only know that if I had a son he could look like Trayvon; I know that I could be Trayvon. 

And he also concludes, provocatively, the following:

Theologically, he [Trayvon Martin] is a sacrifice at the altar of white fear. 

As Father Massingale points out, because many white Americans imagine that African-American males are disproportionately responsible for crime in their society, they consider profiling of all black men reasonable behavior. And so they conclude that Trayvon Martin created the conditions for--he was responsible for--his murder by running away when he was pursued by George Zimmerman, whose profiling and pursuit were "reasonable."

If some innocent African-American men, including unarmed teenaged boys on the way to the store to buy candy, get hurt as white Americans pursue their "reasonable" profiling of black men in order to assure their safety, then this is "tragic" (the word recurs over and over in the commentary of white journalists who do not want to admit the racial components of this story). But it's the necessary price we all have to pay--so tragic!--in order to assure "our" safety.

And if a few innocents must be sacrificed on the altar as we seek our goals, then so be it. This wouldn't be the first time in history, after all, that some gods somewhere demanded blood sacrifice in order to secure social stability, would it?

(I'm grateful to Tom Roberts at National Catholic Reporter for the link to Father Massingale's article.)

The graphic: a stone altar with a trough for catching the blood of the sacrifice, from Ebla in Syria; the photograph is from an article by Professor Michael Fuller of St. Louis Community College, at his academic website.

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