Racism and Territoriality

July 27, 2017

Protest march for justice for Trayvon Martin in Austin, TX (July 2013)

On February 26, 2017, here in Santa Barbara, a group of some fifty community activists gathered quietly in a circle. We joined to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the killing of Trayvon Martin. We did not publicize the event because we wanted to honor the sacredness of life. In the past we have sometimes had to deal with uncivil and even threatening resistance whether we were standing with LGBTQ, Muslims, immigrants, or other populations.

I had always been aware, but that weekend I became acutely sensitive to the territoriality of many of my fellow white Americans, especially males. 

Trayvon was a teenager, watching the NBA All-Star Game featuring his favorite team’s players, Miami’s LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. At halftime, he rushed to a convenience store to pick up a snack, but was murdered because he was perceived to be an interloper in his own community. African Americans, along with others, feel the lack of welcome. We feel it sometimes while walking across a college campus, or paying our greens fees, or standing in line at the bank.
 
The same week we mourned Trayvon, in Kansas, two Sikhs were shot by a man who shouted, “Get out of my country!” Encounters like these persist in century 21. Latinas seated in a restaurant in Orange County, California, were asked for proof of residency. Two men were slashed and killed on a Portland rail while seeking to defend minority women, one wearing a hijab. This killer felt that it was his “patriotic duty.”

As an historian of Christianity, I am certain that, while governments can take measures like desegregating public schools, they cannot change churches. Until churches become safe for all peoples, they tastefully and with rectitude provide cover for territoriality that erupts into the violent behavior of some.

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