Dear friends in Christ,
I was just sitting down to write this week’s Forward Today when the news brought word of the guilty verdict in the trial of George Floyd’s murderer. Almost a year ago, Mr. Floyd was murdered by a police officer while being arrested on suspicion of having committed a fairly minor crime.
Mr. Floyd breathed his last on May 25, 2020. His death unleashed protests across the nation. People took to the streets demanding justice for Mr. Floyd but also seeking justice in a legal system that is demonstrably and unequivocally racist.
Black people are arrested in higher numbers than white people. Black people are more likely to suffer violence at the hands of police. Black people are more likely to be incarcerated—and with longer sentences—than white people.
All of this was true before a police officer knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for several minutes last May. But in the wake of protests, more people became aware of systemic racism in society and especially in the legal system.
No justice, not even today’s guilty verdict, gives Mr. Floyd’s daughter her father back. No justice erases the unspeakable cruelty of kneeling on an immobilized man’s neck. No justice erases the loss in countless cases like Mr. Floyd’s where people died but without someone who bravely recorded the unfolding scene on video.
I pray that Mr. Floyd is redeemed in heaven, because there isn’t really a way to redeem the loss of life on earth. But we can do more than pray.
This paragraph is written for white people like myself: The time is long past when we white people can look the other way or pretend we don’t see the systemic racism that benefits us. We must work to change systems. We must yield our privilege. We must, as Jesus commanded us, love our neighbors.
Just this week, church leaders released the findings of a racial audit of our beloved Episcopal Church’s leadership. The results are sobering, but there are also recommendations for concrete steps we can take to help our church become the beloved community as the Gospel demands.
Racism, the original sin of the United States of America, harms all of us. People of color suffer discrimination, economic deprivation, physical harm, and the constant burden of being treated without respect. White people suffer too, albeit differently, because our complicity in evil systems prevents us from being the people of love, grace, and mercy that Jesus calls us to be.
The racial audit recommends steps for our church. We can all advocate for justice where we see injustice. We can look carefully at our own lives and see what changes might be needed in our hearts. We can learn more. We can build relationships. We can be the brave person who records video or intervenes when we see a risk of discrimination or harm to anyone.
I don’t know what you’re called to do. I’m still seeking to understand my own work in the area of racial justice. But I do know that I cannot claim to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ if I ignore the sin of racism in our nation or in our church.
Let us pray.
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 823)
As we pray, let us speak and work. We cannot restore Mr. Floyd’s life, but I pray that the outrage at his death moves people toward justice and mercy.
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