The Trayvon Martin Verdict:
Where Are The Black Spiritual Teachers?
A few days ago the nation watched as a verdict in a murder trial was handed down. A young black male, an honor student with a 3.7 GPA, was gunned down and killed. The killer admitted to the act and was acquitted on all counts. The nation held its breath for a few minutes. Some of us protested. Some of us cursed out loud and pointed a long cold finger at a system that has made it difficult to explain right and wrong to our children. Some of asked the question, how can the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of the world rid ever itself of the cancer of prejudice?
Politicians, educators, and the legal system have worked diligently to make progress in this arena. Do not misunderstand my point, there has been progress. However, despite their best efforts, the black community continues to suffer unacceptably high rates of unemployment, crime, under-education, broken homes, drug abuse, poor health, and incarceration.
I have two children. When I teach them about life, I have to talk to them differently than if they were white children. I have to teach them the code of behavior for black people. It goes in part like this. Even though you are not a criminal, some people will treat you like you are. If you wear certain clothes or colors, you could get into trouble with the police. If you speak with the police, do not argue with them. If you are pulled over while driving, move slowly and do not make the officers nervous. Most importantly, if you are confronted by someone (no matter their race) who wants to make an issue of your color, the confrontation can lead to nothing good. It is best to walk away.
Black parents know this drill already. If you are not familiar with this talk, well, now you are. That stress is difficult to live with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, we have to teach our children how to handle it. It is a fact of life. In a fair and equal society, this fact would not be true. This inequity brings me to the point of this blog.
The issue of prejudice is as much a spiritual issue as it is emotional. As a society, we have shown that we cannot heal this problem with the prevailing societal powers. True change in society has always been created by the coordinated efforts of our religious, political, educational, and spiritual systems. Spiritual growth and evolution is an important aspect of this growth.
When you look at the religious systems in our country, it is easy to spot the religious leaders. However, the black church, like many churches in our country, no longer fulfill the needs of the majority. In a recent Gallup Poll, 44% of American surveyed stated that they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in "the church of organized religion" today. This number is one of the lowest points measured by Gallup in recent years, including 45% in 2002, and 46% in 2007. This follows a long-term decline in Americans' confidence in religion since the 1970's. Many people are turning to spiritual practices and spiritual teachers for guidance.
I believe that if we are going to rid ourselves of this cancer of prejudice, we must gather our spiritual resources and fight to cleanse the system. At first glance, one would not think that the spiritual system within our country would be affected by prejudice. But you would be wrong. Let's try a test to illustrate my point.
Have you ever heard of Wayne Dyer? Greg Braaden? Louise Hay? Brian Weiss? Eckhart Tolle? Chances are you have. These individuals are among the most powerful and influential recognized spiritual teachers on the planet.
Now let's try another list. Have you ever heard of Bobby Hemmit? Rev. Angel Kyoto Williams? Alim Bey? Bernard Gassaway? Leonard Jeffries? Chances are you have not. These individuals are among the most powerful and influential African American spiritual teachers on the planet.
Why are they not more visible?
Black spiritual teachers suffer from the same prejudice that blacks in many arenas of life suffer from. From my own personal experience, I have attended conferences sponsored by organizers of both races. On both sides of the isle, you will be hard pressed to find speakers of either color. I see very few black speakers presenting at conferences held by white organizers. I also see very few white speakers presenting at conference held by black organizers. Sadly, many spiritual conferences, which serve as the main gathering arenas for many spiritual teachers, are very segregated events.
Black and white spiritual teachers need to join together to help the country heal from this crisis. We too are too often segretated. In every community, there is a need for spiritual guidance. Unfortunately, a white spiritual teacher would have a great deal of difficulty teaching a large black population. The same holds true for the other side of the fence. However, if both teachers, black and white work together, true change becomes possible.
Think about it, how often do you see that?
The first black president of the US has not really changed the perspective, experience or outlook of most blacks. It is a sad but true fact. We need spiritual teachers to help us face the reality that that African-Americans are suffering so severely, deeply and profoundly that we all need to pitch in to help them in their healing.
We cannot sweep the pain, hurt and anger of Black America under the rug indefinitely. We need spiritual leaders to help us stop blaming, shaming and incarcerating without any regard for the past or for the future.
We our spiritual leaders, black and white, to need help as a nation to learn how to stop throwing away young black men like Trayvon Martin.
Dr. Mitchell Gibson