A leading Internet evangelist and founder of LivePrayer.com insists "one of Satan's most powerful weapons" is racism and that he is using the issue to divide the nation over the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. The minister also claims "race baiters like Sharpton and Jesse Jackson" have only made the situation worse.
"Dividing people, due to whatever differences there may be, has been around from the very beginning of time and is one of Satan's most powerful weapons. Racism is a lie from Satan. There is no white race, black race, yellow race, brown race...there is only one race...THE HUMAN RACE!!!," the Rev. Bill Keller said on his website.
"Every time there is any story that involves a person of color, you have opportunists and serial race baiters like Sharpton and Jesse Jackson interjecting themselves. They have spent their lives exploiting race for their own gain and instead of being held accountable, they get prominent commentary roles on networks like CNN and MSNBC," he added.
Many who have rallied in support of Martin, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, claim the 17-year-old African-American's shooting was racially motivated, but Keller says such allegations are only a distraction. The online evangelist has challenged the MSNBC host and civil rights activist to a debate on racial tensions in America by offering a $10,000 bounty, which is partly in response to the same amount issued by the New Black Panthers for the capture of Zimmerman, whose whereabouts are unknown.
The violent confrontation that led to Zimmerman, who is half Hispanic and half white, shooting Martin occurred last month as the teen walked home in a gated residential community in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman, who claimed the shooting was in self-defense, was not arrested or charged by the Sanford Police Department due to the state's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows the use of deadly force in certain cases of self-defense.
The leader of the New Black Panthers, Mikhail Muhammad, announced a $10,000 reward for the capture of Zimmerman. Muhammad, who announced the bounty during a rally in Sanford, avoided questions about whether the group is inciting violence as retaliation for the 17-year-old's death. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," Muhammad told onlookers.
There are others, however, like the Rev. Keller, who believe that reports alleging racism as a motivating factor on Zimmerman's part are entirely premature. The evangelist suggests that the case is best left decided by the judicial system and the public should avoid being distracted by claims of racism.
Sharpton has been a very outspoken advocate for Zimmeran being arrested and tried for the deadly shooting. He has had Martin's parents on his MSNBC program, supported them at rallies, and spoke on their behalf during a Sanford, Fla., City Council meeting. The Baptist minister is frequently at the forefront of cases involving African-Americans entangled in high-profile cases.
"Sharpton is a coward and I am offering him $10,000 to have me on exclusively for an hour on his MSNBC program to debate race in this nation. If he can support by his silence a $10,000 bounty for the head of George Zimmerman, he should be happy to accept $10,000 to debate the issue he is supposed to be an expert on," Keller challenged.
Another pastor and former NAACP chapter leader has leveled similar accusations against Sharpton and Jackson, who has said Martin's case shows how "blacks are under attack."
"His family should be outraged at the fact that they're using this child as the bait to inflame racial passions," the Rev. C.L. Bryant told The Daily Caller.
Still, others have highlighted that racial minorities, African-Americans in particular, are indeed racially profiled on a regular basis, and such cases are a serious issue that need to be addressed for the racial undertones which they carry.
Clarence B. Jones, a Scholar in Residence, Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, wrote in an opinion piece for The Huffington Post, "This incident reveals, yet again, how most of white America remains seriously afflicted with amnesia and hypocrisy involving the experience of black men and the police in many communities in our nation."
He went on to cite a 1998 Human Rights Watch Report, titled "Shielded from Justice, Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States," which begins by declaring: "Race continues to play a central role in police brutality in the United States."
Jones further argues that the appointment of Obama as U.S. president does not mean issues of police injustice against African-Americans has gone away, and the Martin incident is a prime example of that.