The Color of Suspicion

We are honored to welcome Bishop L. Spenser Smith to our writing team.  Our listening audience is most familiar with Smith as host of the weekly segment Getting Ready For Love, which airs Fridays at 10:45a ET. He is the author of the book Getting Ready For Love and pastor of The Impact Nation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This singer, songwriter, and artist is best known musically for his work with his aggregation Testament on the track Surgery, which garnered a Stellar award nomination as Contemporary Choir of the Year.

Combining all of these talents and vantage points, Smith brings an expertise and cerebral approach to issues that is second to none. We are excited to welcome him to our writing team. Prepare to be enlightened and empowered. Welcome L. Spenser Smith!

The Color of Suspicion

Ever since my awareness lighted upon the Trayvon Martin case, I have been filled with extremely mixed & often conflicting emotions. Because of my daily vocation & call, I’m primarily given to speak and promote unity for the greater good and to not stir up intimations that may lead to separation or partiality. However, I feel by the grace of that same call to passionately discuss this case and the elements of inevitable separation around it. Often when you speak truth to power, it is those who are in power who do not like to hear truth and yet it must be spoken. To that end, let me fulfill my call…

I was 17 once. I am “black” always. I’ve “lived” Trayvon. I’ve lived his “societal crime” for forty years. We both arrived in this earth marked. Marked by the color of suspicion. That ominous hue that causes handbags to be clutched, doors to be suddenly locked, and an unordered security detail to tag along when shopping in a store that presumably was above my pay grade every time you show up. I’ve known the hurt of being looked over, not given important information or opportunity, not counted worthy or equal. All because of this color. Been there. Done that. It is etched in my mind. As a memory. And yet too often, it is still a present reality.

Although there are many aspects to this case, the most revealing one is the seemingly systemized disregard and disrespect for the life of a child. From George Zimmerman’s obvious racial profiling to the overt bafoonery of the Sanford police; the insidious back-room dealings to have no arrest made to the right wing media’s ignorant attempts to dig an ever-widening chasm between murdered child’s character and the cries for justice; using his past against him to show why his life was worth ending, it leaves another unremovable stain of the fabric of American consciousness. All of these split-second decisions made while a child lay lifeless, unclaimed in a morgue. “Nothing to see here folks! Just another ‘thug’ charged with nothing but being black while living!”

As much as I am an optimist by nature, I have to admit, this shook my faith as I discussed this with my children. The whys. The hows. The whos. To see the anger and fear in their eyes as they sensed their innocence being threatened by the knowledge of the world in which they live was and is a lot for me as a parent who has prided himself on being a protector of his children. I saw them self-identify with Trayvon; their eyes giving way to silent second-guessings of themselves. “Could this happen to me?” We talked honestly about race, prejudice & some of its origins; key nuggets that would not be taught or discussed in their schools. My conversations with them did have glimpses of hope. They understood that although the ignorance of racism is still existent, it is not a cause for mass indictment. They understand the idea of privilege & entitlement that fuels class discrimination in their world but they are also hopeful that God will make the way prosperous regardless of those who may see them as inferior. They see their future as still bright & attainable. This wicked act has not damaged their pursuit of greatness. To some, they may have the color of suspicion, but they in their hearts, they are coded for success!

There are many burgeoning conversations that must be had in the light of America’s prejudice underbelly being revealed once again. We of all races & creeds must lift our voices together at this moment in a chorus of clarity for fairness. Those who have never and will never experience institutionalized discrimination coupled with disenfranchisement & disregard should not be so isolated from the real-time experiences of others; labeling them as “reverse racists” because they choose to express their kindred testimonies of painful reality, both past & present. Neither should this bitter moment justify the labeling of others simply because they too “wear the shade” of those who hate. It’s simple. Justice must prevail. Justice for Trayvon and all like him who live daily in this world; simply clothed with the color of suspicion. Remember, he died with Skittles in his hand; the bag of many colors. What we do from here is on us.

“I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” – Booker T. Washington

© 2012 L. Spenser Smith Media, Inc.

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