Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Thoughts in the wake of George Floyd's murder

The central thing we have to think about, before we can talk about anything else going on right now, is the murder of George Floyd.

I know, that it was a murder is still to be adjudicated.  But we saw from many angles that Mr. Floyd was not resisting arrest.  We saw close up, that he was cuffed.  And we saw the police officer press his knee into Mr. Floyd's neck while he protested that his breathing was being cut off, until he went limp - and then for almost three minutes more.  The man was murdered.

On one level, I think we have to consider that possibility that the police has something wrong with him, as an individual. I mean, I suspect he has sociopathic tendencies.  I'm not a doctor and I've never met the officer, but who could calmly press his knee into another human's neck until he died, like that?  No one with any empathy.

Or, perhaps the office has been trained in the ways of war.  Soldiers are trained to be able to kill like that, I think.  But first, they have to view that "other"  they are killing as "enemy," as therefore in fundamental ways not human, not in the same way. 

Is that what happened to that officer?

Because so many police killings of black people lend some credence to that idea:  that for various reasons police officers have been trained, or maybe habituated, to think that black men are not human in the same way as white men.  And after all, that's certainly what slaveholders believed - that's how they justified owning other humans, treating them like livestock, having them do the hard work in the sun:  they're not like us.  They were made for that work.  They need us to survive. 

And that's why we have to look hard at what happened.  At all the "what happeneds."  Anti-Blackness lives in our history.  It lives in parts of our culture.  And it lives in our hearts, whether we want it to or not.  I have read that even Black people struggle to overcome the inherited idea that their bodies are worth less than White ones.  I don't want to believe it, but it's true.  And the most scrupulously careful White person has had a moment where we discovered in our assumptions something we didn't know was there:  a racist thought, unbidden, rises to our consciousness.

So we have to believe this all is true.  And we have to repent of it, all the time.  We White people have the luxury of walking away and forgetting about it, but even if we do that - it won't go away.  And we who follow Jesus do not have the right to exercise that luxury, because our Lord has commanded us to love one another as he loved us, and that means the brothers and sisters of all races.  We must ask the Lord to cause to rise to the top of our awareness the racist assmptions we have living in us, and we must ask the Lord's help so that we can repent of them.

Repentance, in the New Testament, is a translation of a Greek word that means to "change your mind," or better, "to change out your mind" - the old one, for a new one. 

We desperately need a new mind, that we could begin to see things as they are, and not as the poison of racism has tinged them for us.  Paul tells us we need the "renewing of our minds" so that we can tell what the will of God is.  Yes, we do.

So let us pray for that for ourselves, and for one another.  Please pray for it for me!  This is the only way for us to "be the change" we hope for, that we know we need, so that we will no longer be a multi-level society, where we reserve the best of the goods for only some of us, only those who by virtue of genetics have white skin.  Where we deliberately ostracize and belittle others merely for having more melanin.  Where we embue authority in some to freely kill others, because somehow it seems right.  Lord, have mercy on us.

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