Schmitz 3-26-2012

My Word: It’s time to remove profiling plague

Schmitz Profile(Orlando Sentinel, March 26, 2012)

By Kathy Schmitz

Surrounded as we are by a veritable blizzard of news reports, commentaries, rallies and protests, it’s crucial that we not lose sight of the core issues in the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

• First and foremost, a 17-year-old has been robbed of his future. Why? Because someone thought he didn’t fit an acceptable profile.- Trayvon’s extended family will never be the same. Even the good memories will forever be tinged with sadness and anger. An inescapable ache has taken up residence in that part of the being where joy should reside.

• Even onlookers can’t remain unaffected. Righteous indignation, a sense of vulnerability and a loss of faith have pervaded every nook and cranny of the community’s collective soul. “This can’t happen,” we say. “Not in 2012. Not in the nation of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ Not in the country of ‘liberty and justice for all.’” But it has happened.

• There’s a concept called evenhanded application of the law. It’s vital. Especially when a human life has been taken. Even more so when the allegations stretch credulity. George Zimmerman claims that he is the victim and Trayvon Martin the aggressor. But consider: Martin was young; Zimmerman is an adult. Martin had no record of violence; Zimmerman does. Martin was unarmed; Zimmerman had a gun. Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher he was pursuing Martin – despite the dispatcher’s attempt to dissuade him. Martin can’t tell his side of the story; Zimmerman was believed by the police and the investigating officers let him walk away. A community — and a nation — that sees something wrong with this picture is neither crazy nor unreasonable.

• Unwise laws, such as “stand your ground,” inevitably yield undesirable results. It’s a little late for hand-wringing when predicted negative consequences become tragic reality. “Better late than never” certainly applies in the repeal of such laws.

• Two things are critical for the family and our nation to move toward healing in the face of this tragedy. First, for the appearance of justice, Zimmerman must face a jury. Second, we must recognize the plague that stereotyping and profiling continue to visit on our nation.

We must commit ourselves to removing this plague from our society and from our own hearts. Too many lives have been destroyed. Out of this tragedy, let us demand and ensure that it happen no more.

The Rev. Kathy Schmitz is pastor of First Unitarian Church of Orlando and a member of the executive committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.