[National Council of Churches] The President and staff leader of the National Council of Churches said today they are “profoundly disturbed” by the killing of Trayvon Martin, an African American youth.
President Kathryn M. Lohre and Interim General Secretary Clare J. Chapman also expressed concern about the racial stereotyping and endemic racism that sparks confrontations of the kind that led to Martin’s death, allegedly at the hands of a neighborhood watch volunteer.
In a joint statement during the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days gathering in the Washington area, Lohre and Chapman said they prayed a thorough investigation of the incident will be a “first step toward discarding historic structural patterns that have caused us to dehumanize one another, and that have placed millions of our sisters and brothers, persons of color, at risk in our society — in their homes, their neighborhoods and in public places.”
The full text of the statement follows:
The National Council of Churches is profoundly disturbed by the tragic events surrounding the killing on February 26 of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
We send our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Trayvon. We sadly acknowledge the tragic reality that exists for young men of color and their families who, because of their appearance, fear they will be victims of violence at the hands of police and others. The stereotypes held by police against persons of color, and held by persons of color against police in response – have engendered a dangerous – if not deadly – reality throughout our country.
In this case, the police have said Florida law makes it unnecessary for police to investigate the shooting of Trayvon, resulting in unprecedented demonstrations of anger in the U.S. and around the world. Clearly, this tragedy has been compounded by unexamined stereotypes on both sides, and especially by the systemic racism that is pervasive throughout the very fabric of our society infecting our institutions and individuals alike.
We do not have all the facts about this terrible incident and it is impossible to know what was going on in the mind of the alleged shooter. But all of us – especially those who are white – must engage in urgent self-examination about the ways we react to persons we regard as “other.” And beyond our personal responses, we must recommit ourselves to root out the endemic institutional racism, both in society and in the church that threatens our ability to live in safety and in community.
We welcome signs that systems of justice are moving to fully investigate the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin. We pray these efforts will be a first step toward discarding historic structural patterns that have caused us to dehumanize one another, and that have placed millions of our sisters and brothers, persons of color, at risk in our society — in their homes, their neighborhoods and in public places.
We pray for God’s help as we seek to bridge the divisions that separate us from one another. May God forgive us and open all our hearts to one another.