The Zimmerman Acquittal: America’s Racist God

lemert park protestThe not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case has me thinking a lot about a book I first encountered in seminary, Is God a White Racist?, by the Rev. Dr. Bill Jones. As a budding seminary student, it took me by surprise. Now, as a wiser, older professor looking at the needless death of Trayvon Martin, I have to say: I get it.

God ain’t good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us. As a black woman in an nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that this American god ain’t my god. As a matter of fact, I think he’s a white racist god with a problem. More importantly, he is carrying a gun and stalking young black men.

When George Zimmerman told Sean Hannity that it was God’s will that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, he was diving right into what most good conservative Christians in America think right now. Whatever makes them protected, safe, and secure, is worth it at the expense of the black and brown people they fear.

Their god is the god that wants to erase race, make everyone act “properly” and respect, as the president said, “a nation of laws”; laws that they made to crush those they consider inferior.

When the laws were never made for people who were considered, constitutionally, to be three-fifths of a person, I have to ask: Is this just? Is it right? Is God the old white male racist looking down from white heaven, ready to bless me if I just believe the white men like Rick Perry who say the Zimmerman case has nothing to do with race?

You already know the answer: No.

The lamentation of the African-American community at yet another injustice, the surprise and disgust of others who understand, stand against this pseudo-god of capitalisms and incarceration that threaten to take over our nation.

While many continue to proclaim that the religious right is over, they’re wrong. The religious right is flourishing, and unlike the right of the 1970s, religious conservatism of the 21st century is in bed with the prison industrial complex, the Koch brothers, the NRA—all while proclaiming that they are “pro-life.” They are anything but. They are the ones who thought that what George Zimmerman did was right, and I am sure my inbox will be full of well=meaning evangelical sermons about how we should all just get along, and God doesn’t see race.

Please send them elsewhere.

anthea butlerAs a historian of American and African-American religion, I know that the Trayvon Martin moment is just one moment in a history of racism in America that, in large part, has its underpinnings in Christianity and its history.

Those of us who teach American Religion have a responsibility to tell all of the story, not just the nice touchy-feely parts. When the good Christians of America are some of its biggest racists, one has to consider our moral responsibility to call out those who clearly are not for human flourishing, no matter what ethnicity a person is. Where are you on that scale? I know where I am.

Anthea Butler
Religion Dispatches

Image: Malcolm Ali/Finalimage


  1. ovrkil105 says

    This is NOT a race issue! Trayvon was a troublemaker and Zimmerman was trying to protect his neighborhood from criminals. Both could have handled themselves better, both were just as wrong. This shit happens everyday, move on already!

  2. Room101 says

    George Zimmerman is perhaps America’s greatest hero of the new 21st Century.
    Because he’s not White and is by default de-facto therefore non-racist.
    George Zimmerman is incapable of racism.
    He isn’t White, but a diverse Hispanic every fair-minded person who hates Whites, or at least should, everyone should love and admire

    All he does is save lives, prevent crime against the innocent, and also voted for Pres Obama twice.
    George should be given machine guns and rocket launchers and as much ammo as he needs to keep the barrels white hot and smoking in an effort to knock down more filthy violent dirty vicious thugs like the slime that tried to murder him.
    It’s the government and the Democrat party saying non-White people should be able to exterminate Whites without pity or mercy, down to the last newborn suckling babe.
    George Zimmerman isn’t White.

  3. Carla Larissa says

    God doesn’t have to be a person; god can be a verb, too.

    I like “folk-zinger” Don White’s description of how to piss of a Unitarian-Universalist: say: “God is a man. God is a Caucasian man, and He loves the military and industrial complex.”

  4. clarabu says

    In a word, DEMAGOGUES. DEMAGOGUERY. Don’t let them try and tell you they worship the true God. Keep praying hard in your heart of hearts. There is a kind and caring spirit in the Universal Mind.

  5. Bishop M. Tolbert says

    Hello Anthea, while I have had some of the same thoughts that you have voiced here about God’s outlook on Black People. Unfortunately we are not the only people who have suffered in history.. US History and World history is full of sufferings. God’s scope is so much great than ours because he sits in a larger tower with a greater view of all the worlds greatness and all the worlds atrocities. While I wonder why bad things happen; I don’t have an answer, But I do know that God is faithful.. I am an African American Pastor who lost a 19 year old son in a vehicular accident in the year 2000, I have asked God many questions about that moment in history when a fire engine collided with my sons small car and killed him instantly. I have not gotten any answers from God. Yet I do not doubt the scripture that assures me that all things work together for good to them that love the lord and are the called according to his purpose. I have a call and I believe that my sons call had to be fulfilled in order for God to allow him to go into eternity at such a young age. While I doubt and challenge many things about the judicial systems, peoples motives and the prejudices that exist in our world; I have seen the hand of God move too many times to doubt that God is good all the time and all the time God is Good. Keep your faith; that is the only thing that will see you through to the correct place of eternity.

  6. -Nate says

    Anthea ;

    I wish it wasn’t so but it is ~ one of my brightest Foster boys who happens to be Black , called me right after the verdict was announced and asked me who this could be in America .

    This is a shameful thing to me , a true Conservative American , not a blind hating teabagger nutjob .

    Hang in there , good folks like you and I are fighting the good fight .


  7. Ryder says

    It’s sad to read an article that understands so little about law… so little about justice. I can’t speak to God… what he thinks or wants, but on law, I can.

    The 3/5th’s issue: anyone that sees that as a bad thing for blacks is simply as ignorant as can be. Astoundingly so.

    You see, in this country, the number of representatives a state has depends on the number of people living in the state.

    When the southern states went to defend their use of slavery, they needed to have MORE power, not less, in Congress… so it was the SLAVE STATES that pushed for slaves to be counted, fully, in order to increase their power in the House of Representatives. When the head count goes up, the number of Congressmen a state get’s to have, goes up.

    In order to reduce the power of the slave states, the “free North” states argued that the slaves should not count at all… and in the end, they compromised at the 3/5ths number.

    This had NOTHING to do with what either side thought about blacks as persons. It had ONLY to do with taking power from the south, that used slaves for their head count, but denied them actual citizenship.

    Next, everyone knows, that if Martin was shot by another black man (as happens every day), under the exact same circumstances… you wouldn’t be writing about it. The media wouldn’t be talking about it.

    It’s ***only*** the fact that the guy with the gun was anything OTHER than black…

    Which means: you care about race. It means, as far as you’re concerned, blacks can kill blacks… and it’s no more than an embarrassment that you’d rather not hear about, but if the shooter has a skin color other than black? Then you’ve got something to talk about… to write about… to scream about.

    The question for me is: why do you have a racially biased reaction?

    Legal scholars are saying that the jury came to the right decision based on the specifics of the proceedings… and that the prosecution made too many mistakes along the way.

    A nation of law, FOLLOWS the law.

    Judging by your knowledge of the 3/5th rule… you don’t know the law well enough.


      My reply: Man with concealed gun shoots and kills man with no gun.
      Another win for the NRA! Rah!!!!! In the old west that was reason for a hanging, doesn’t seem to work this day in age, right NRA!

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