‘It all must change’: early UU responses to verdict in Trayvon Martin murder case

Saturday night’s not-guilty verdict in the murder case against George Zimmerman, who fired the shot that killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012, provoked prayers, reflections, and expressions of outrage from Unitarian Universalists. A few of the early reactions published on public sites (many more were published semi-publically on Facebook):

The Rev. Meg Riley, minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, posted a prayer “for those whose hearts are on fire,” which included this line: “May I live my life so that Trayvon Martin did not die in vain.” (Quest for Meaning, 7.13.13)

The Rev. Jeff Liebmann wrote Sunday morning: “I mourn for the family of Trayvon Martin. I mourn for every person of color who feels even less safe now than they did yesterday. I mourn for us all as a society when we care more about unfettered gun possession than we do the sanctity of life.” (uujeff’s muse kennel and pizzatorium, 7.14.13)

Seminarian Karen G. Johnston offered a prayer “for peaceful and loud persistence” (irrevspeckay, 7.15.13).

The Rev. Gary Kowalski reflects on way racism has historically corrupted the jury trial system in the U.S. “But blacks and whites have such different experiences regarding the law, the police, the veracity of sworn testimony and the reliability of the criminal justice system that ‘peerage’ (or an equivalence of attitude) is almost impossible between them.” (Revolutionary Spirits, 7.14.13)

The Rev. Colin Bossen added a reflection and a prayer to the sermon he had already prepared. “We know that what happened to Trayvon Martin happens to hundreds of black men in this country every year. This is true even if we remember but a handful of their names—Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant. . . . And we know that for this to change everything must change: the judiciary; the police; the enduring structures of white supremacy; the way we relate, as individuals and as a society, to guns and violence; what we hold in our hearts. It all must change.” (Colin Bossen, 7.14.13)

The Rev. Sam Trumbore observed, “When black men stand their ground, they overwhelmingly go to jail When white men stand their ground, they get reasonable doubt.” But, he added, “Many more people know of the racial profiling that happens every day than before February of 2012.” (TimesUnion.com, 7.14.13)

But Peter Bowden expressed frustration that many UU congregations inadequately addressed Saturday night’s verdict in their Sunday worship services. “If you are going to open your doors for worship, you have responsibilities. This includes creating space for ministering to people through your worship service in the wake of major national/world events. You have a very real responsibility to check the news.” (UU Planet, 7.14.13)

[Update 1:20 p.m.:] UUA President Peter Morales issued a statement Monday afternoon: “The legal system has had its say, but justice has not been served. . . . We must respond to our society’s violence, hatred, and fear with compassion and justice.” (UUA.org, 7.15.13)