For eight minutes and 46 seconds, the weighted knee of a Minneapolis police officer pressed deeply into George Floyd’s neck. Mr. Floyd pleaded for his life stating, “I can’t breathe.” He pleaded for his mother as his life began to expire from his body. At around six minutes, he seemed to lose consciousness. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead about an hour later.
Earlier in the month, the world watched in horror as the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder was released and the enormous public outrage finally led to the arrests of the perpetrators. There were other news stories including the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26 year-old EMT, who was killed in the middle of the night in her own home.
As I write this, there are protests happening all over the country and all over the world including my own city of Washington, DC.
I am heartbroken and outraged at the seeming constant brutality happening against black people in a nation that is supposed to be founded on “Liberty and Justice For All.” I am heartbroken, especially for my African-American friends and staff, as they cope with this ongoing trauma during a pandemic that is already disproportionately affecting them.
I’m heartbroken that our children and youth at Little Lights can’t trust the police to “serve and protect” them in their own community. I am heartbroken that racial injustice continues to plague our nation and that some are so desperate and hopeless that destroying and looting property is seen as their best course of action.
At Little Lights, I’ve had the honor of teaching the Race Literacy 101 class for the past four years. Hearing the personal stories of racial profiling and racism from African-American friends and co-workers over the years as well as researching and understanding our nation’s and the Church’s complicity in structural racism has helped me to understand why we are mired in the predicament that we found ourselves in. It is no less heartbreaking to see the pain of so many people I know who are dealing with the trauma of racialized violence and ongoing racial inequity.
As I have taught the class for the past four years, I am convinced now more than ever that superficial answers will not work. We need deep repentance, lament, and lasting change–culturally and structurally. The seeming chaos we are seeing played out on our screens are symptoms of a deeper disease of racism and racial oppression that our nation has left untreated and unconfronted.
I pray that the Church and our nation will have the strength needed to confront the truth of our history and find a path toward real justice, reconciliation, and healing. The old saying is true, “No Justice, No Peace, Know Justice, Know Peace.” May God have mercy on us all.