During a global pandemic and recession with 14.7% unemployment in the U.S., another white police officer killed an unarmed black man. This does not mean all police officers are racist or bad. It is symptomatic of the racism that has plagued the U.S. since Europeans landed on these shores. Following the First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble” and “freedom of speech,” people have been protesting. Where is the hope? There’s hope in several places. Keep reading. I will provide examples.
People are speaking out against racism and violence. However, this time, something is different in these protests. According to a New York Times article, police have been killing more than 1,000 Americans every year since the statistics began. Maybe it was the video of the officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, or maybe it was his words. Regardless of what makes it different, the protests are spreading. Some are peaceful. Some are not. Some turn a peaceful assembly into a riot. Some include opportunists who take advantage of the disarray and begin looting. Violence and looting violate God’s Commandment, “You shall not steal.”
One protester in Jacksonville said, “In every city, there’s a George Floyd.” Others are speaking out because George Floyd could have been their father, brother, uncle, cousin, or friend. Another protester came out because he had been a victim of police violence as a teenager. A protester in Minneapolis said, “If we don’t fight for change we’re not going to get it.” After being hit with rubber bullets from the Washington Police, a woman in Georgetown said, “Do you know what didn’t happen to me? No one kneeled on my neck.”
Current events justify people’s righteous indignation and moral outrage. We can respond with our support. We can speak for those who cannot speak. We can support people’s right to peacefully express their dissent. We can join them in solidarity, or if we cannot protest alongside them, we can find creative ways to demonstrate that we share their frustration.
There has been too much violence for too long. By not talking about racism or ignoring it, we share some complicity with those who actively pursue racist agendas. Racism seems to always find its way into our country’s biggest divisions. An Englishman named Anthony Reddie said on BBC yesterday, “America is still a country that’s underpinned by white supremacism [sic.].”
I know Anthony and feel like his summary is wrong, and I told him that. I tweeted my disagreement to him and told him that the U.S. is not ‘underpinned by white supremacism.’ Many of us don’t support racist rhetoric. Many of us are working to overcome differences. ‘Underpinned’ suggests racism is our foundation. America’s foundation includes the freedom to express our grievances and the right to peacefully protest. Our Constitution begins, “We the people…” Therefore, all of us have voices and the right to say what is on our mind.
We can say COVID-19 stinks. We can commiserate with everyone stuck inside. We can sympathize or empathize with those who have lost their jobs. We can reach out to everyone we know and ask how they are doing. When they talk, we can listen. We can encourage people who want to peacefully protest. We can discourage anyone who tells us they want to riot or loot. We can read articles and books that help us see things from a different perspective. We can share those articles and books with others.
We can follow the positive examples we see all around us. In Flint, MI, a sheriff took off his riot gear and marched with protesters. In Queens, NY, police officers knelt with protesters. In Louisville, KY, a group of white women stood, arm-in-arm, between police and African American protesters. Also, in Louisville, protesters formed a human barrier to protect a police officer who became separated from the rest of the officers. In Brooklyn, NY, protesters protected a Target store from looters. There is hope.
We don’t know all of the answers, so sometimes, we can say nothing. We can just listen. We can pray. We can hope, especially when we see courageous people responding. We can trust that God is bigger than this moment and will still be present when we get through this. And, we will get through this. Today might seem like a dark moment in the U.S., but it’s not the end.
On Good Friday, the disciples thought the Jesus movement was over. It wasn’t. Sunday was coming. Right now, there’s a Sunday ahead. It’s a bright day when people will come together. In fact, they will come together in person because the coronavirus will not last forever. On that bright day in the future, we can remember the first Easter and Jesus’ glorious resurrection.