Race, Violence and George Floyd

It is horrible, and my heart breaks.

George Floyd was restrained.  He wasn’t fighting or resisting.  In fact, he was begging “please.”  Watching the video, I can think of no scenario where this response by the police officer could be justified.

It is horrible, and my heart breaks.

A beautifully spirited young woman in my congregation who is a person of color, confides to her Mom that sometimes, especially when news of race based crimes comes out, the idea of going running in her own neighborhood causes anxiety.

It is horrible, and my heart breaks.

A city I love is in chaos.  It is where I was born and lived for the first 13 years of my life, and I returned for 6 years later.  There are riots and looting and violence.  It is burning.

It is horrible and my heart breaks.

People in the dominant culture (yes, this includes me) don’t want to admit that race is an issue.  We want to think that we have moved beyond that.  But we have to learn, and have to admit, that it is.  Race makes a difference.  And for those who are in the minorities, it is a difference that causes harm.  And while none of us want to think that our actions cause this, we are all a part of systems that maintains racism.

I was a part of a conversation once with a friend of mine, who is an ELCA pastor in north Minneapolis, and who is of African-American descent.  There was a small group of us  talking about the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  It was new, and it was in the news, and people on all sides of the issue were angry about it.  Someone in our group asked the question “instead of saying “black lives matter,” shouldn’t we say “all lives matter?”  My friend smiled, and replied “as people of faith, we know that all lives matter.  But here’s the difference.  Your kids,” and he pointed at us who are white, “grew up in a world where they know they matter.  They are told they are special.  They are told they are precious.  And they receive the benefit of the doubt.

My kids,” he went on,  “go into drug stores, or other shops, and are followed by employees to prevent theft.  They get pulled over by the police for no apparent reason.  They did not get the benefit of the doubt.  Your kids know they matter.  My kids aren’t so sure.”

It is horrible, and it breaks my heart.  My friend’s kids should know that they matter, just like mine do.

This is the difference.  And this difference is racism.

And those of us who are in the dominant culture need to acknowledge that this is a real thing.  It is a reality for millions of people whose skin tone is different than ours.  And until we can admit that our experiences are different because of our skin color, and until we do the work needed to change this, nothing will change and we will repeat the events of the last few days again, and again, and again.  (George Floyd is the 3rd African American man killed by police in the last 4 weeks)

And that is horrible, and it breaks my heart.

Racism is evil.  It is sin.  It separates us from God and from one another.  It tells one person that they are loved and valued less than someone else.  And if our faith tells us nothing else, it tells us that this is wrong.

As people who follow Jesus, we need to stand for what is right.  God’s vision for the world is one  where “there is a great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb, riled in white, with palm branches in their hands.”  (Revelation 7:9)

This is God’s vision for the world.  And we are tasked with being the hands, feet and voices that partner with God to make this vision a reality.

And so let me be clear:

  • Racism is evil
  • I am sorry for my role in maintaining systems that place value based on race
  • I am sorry that I have been blind to what other children of God experience
  • I need to speak and do more to dismantle these systems.  I will do better.
  • George Floyd’s life mattered
  • And because they have heard messages that tell them the opposite for so long, I affirm that yes, black lives do matter

God’s peace, friends.
Pastor Todd

4 Replies to “Race, Violence and George Floyd”

  1. I don’t think I am at all raciest. Yet, when I drive through town after dark, if I see a group of young men gathered on a street corner, I tend to push the lock down on my car doors. Not even necessarily because of their color, but more because of their age. So apparently I’m not necessarily a raciest, but apparently I am prejudice! I pray justice be done in our Twin Cities.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful yet convicting words.

  3. Mr. Floyd’s family and friends are grieving and I grieve with them. Those of us with power and privilege must use it to bring about change for everyone in our communities. That means giving up power and privilege. It means feeling a little less safe. It means that if you are white you should read “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota” at least three times. I am Hispanic and so many of the stories reminded me of my own life and incidents I have lived through. It also reminded me of my own biases, prejudices, and racism.

    1. Thank you David. I just ordered that book, based on your recommendation. I’m looking forward to reading it. And I agree with you. For too long, those with power and privilege have wanted others to adjust to their culture, without being willing to change themselves.

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