An Ivy League professor made headlines after penning a blog post saying the George Zimmerman verdict helps support the notion that the "American god" is a "white racist god."
On Saturday, July 13 a jury of six women -- five of whom were white -- found Zimmerman not guilty on all charges relating to the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. The following day Anthea Butler, an associate professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania with a Ph.D. in religion from Vanderbilt and a Masters in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, took to online magazine Religion Dispatches to discuss Zimmerman's acquittal.
She opened her piece referencing a book she first encountered as a seminary student: Is God a White Racist? by Rev. Dr. William R. Jones. Paralleling the ideas proposed in this book with the Martin case, she says she now understands the meaning behind Jones' message.
From her post on Religion Dispatches:
God ain’t good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us. As a black woman in a 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.
Butler went on to state how Zimmerman himself said the shooting of Martin was part of "God's plan" for him. She noted how other conservative Christians in America might use such ideology as a defense, which could lead to the subjugation of others.
"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?" she wrote. "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?"
The post received vehement criticism from conservative bloggers and Internet trolls alike. Josiah Ryan, editor-in-chief of Campus Reform, the first site to report on Butler's post, dubbed her remarks "hateful" and "designed to hurt" while speaking with Fox News.
Butler argues, however, that her piece has been misinterpreted. Her message was not a blanket one. She was referring to two very distinct entities when she wrote "god" and "God."
"First of all they don't understand it's between small 'g' god and big 'G' God," Butler said of her critics during a phone conversation with The Huffington Post about the backlash. "Big 'G' God is the deity. Little 'g' is different kinds of gods. Anyone who reads Religion Dispatches knows this. ... But this was especially touchy for [conservative Christians] because I hit on some things that are kind of true."
This isn't the first time she has faced venom from detractors. Back in December, she received hate mail regarding comments about gun control and racism after the massacre in Newtown, Conn. She has been called the B-word and the N-word; people have demanded UPenn fire her, despite her tenured status.
She even has a Tumblr called "The Things People Say," which catalogues a handful of hateful comments hurled her way.
"The fact that I even continue to write is my way of saying, 'I'm going to engage the public whether you people like it or disagree or not,'" she said. "It is a calling for me. I went to seminary. I got a Ph.D. Some people decide to minister and go to church and preach. My calling is to engage the public and the public's understanding of religion. That is what I do. That is who I am. It's to talk about these hard things, like race and religion."
Butler believes all of the hate she has received further proves her point.
"[It's] foreign to people who think they know how American behavior should be," she said. "People say we are post-racial, but we are anything but post-racial. We are in Jim Crow Part II. And that is what's going on. It's tiring, but I am resolute."
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