This is not a Black problem. This is America’s problem.
To say that I am not angry about the recent and ongoing events in this country would not be truthful. I am no different from most people I know and thousands across the country and around the world who witnessed the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of four men whose job is to serve and protect.
I sat with my 99-year-old mother, who Lord knows has seen more than her share of crimes against humanity. Together we helplessly watched the cell phone video as George Floyd’s life was squeezed from him in the same way that Black people were hung by their necks for hundreds of years.
My mother said, “God only knows how many have suffered and died and not gone on record because we did not have the ability of the 17-year-old who bravely pointed her cell phone while all this was happening.”
No doubt there have been hundreds of similar murders that did not get recorded.
What the Death of George Floyd Means to Us All
What is the difference today? We have listened and watched as those of the people, by the people, and for the people have spewed meaningless words against the people. Hate speech is alive and well, veiled in prose, subtle innuendo, threats, and dog whistles. They are the incendiary devices that ignite the flames of discord, and they are condoned and encouraged by a twisted mind-set that believes those who do not look, act, or think like them are irrelevant—mere casualties of war. It is not only inhumane, but also insane.
We have watched a public lynching, only this time the people standing around screaming for it to stop were armed with truth, principles, integrity, and righteous indignation. They wisely used their First Amendment rights to capture it all in real time.
Then they used the power of social media to show the world before blind justice had a chance to manufacture a different story.
Yet these citizens were helpless to do anything to prevent the long arm of the law from choking the life out of George Floyd. At least not this time.
The ensuing protests are clearly demonstrating that Black and Brown people, joined by others who are woke, recognize that every one of us is created in the image and likeness of God. That gives all of us the right to freely breathe the same air. This senseless killing reminds all of us that when the air is being choked out of one of us, we should all be gasping for breath and crying out for help.
How to Honor George Floyd and the Many Whose Lives Led Us to Where We Are
- Speak Their Names.
- Make your voice heard.
- Tweet, Snapchat, share, and comment.
- Call, write, text, tweet, chat, share to your local, state, and federal officials. Tell them what you think and how you wish to be represented.
- Do not forget this is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Those who serve, serve at the consent of the governed. The United States means us!
Putting Prayer Into Action
I felt it, and I am still choking. I also felt it when stories finally came to light about others whose lives were snuffed out by the long arm of the law. Whose law? Ours and those sworn to protect and serve us all.
We cannot sit idly by until the next cell phone recording makes its way to social media or our television news, as if the deaths we witness were simply a cliff-hanger TV episode before the next season. We cannot just sit on the edges of our seats wondering what is going to happen next or how we can pick up where we left off with the latest killing.
In the eloquent poem by James Weldon Johnson that became the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” he wrote:
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Let us not forget the road we have traveled that brought us to where we are. Let us not be so fooled by all the great things we have enjoyed since slavery was abolished and some laws were enacted that were intended to guarantee equal rights for all. We must remember that someone paid a price for us to have certain rights and privileges. And lives were lost.
Let us put feet to our prayers and do whatever Spirit anoints us to do to be the change, the peace, the love, the joy, the justice, the equality, the understanding, the compassion we want to see in the world.
Let us not back down. Let us not give in. Let us not give up. We are not helpless. We are not hopeless. We are the people in whose interests the U.S. Constitution was written.
This is not a Black problem for a Black agenda waiting for some act to be passed that will end all the pain and suffering and right past wrongs. This is America’s problem.
“Riot Is the Language of the Unheard”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. strongly opposed violence. However, he recognized that nothing of significance can be gained without public outcry. In a 1967 speech to an audience at Stanford University, he said, “In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.”
In another well-known speech, Dr. King also reminded us that, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
These demonstrations from one end of this nation to another, and around the globe, are a wake-up call that “We the people” will no longer allow a small group to rule over those who gave them the power to govern. That means all of us.
We have the power of our conscience. We have the power of our voice. We have the power of the ballot. We can speak truth to power.
We will not stand by and watch as the breath is choked out of any one of us without a protest. We will not be complicit by keeping silent.
There is a pandemic of hate that is crying out for a vaccine of truth, justice, freedom, and equality. We have the cure.
Let us not allow ourselves to be lulled back to sleep after the protests end, a few people are brought to justice, and a few gestures of restoration and reconciliation are made in the name of law and order.
Let us not forget the names of those whose lives were sacrificed. Let history record this. Let us tell our children so that they are not blindsided when our voices can no longer be heard.
Let us not forget that we were all born for such a time as this. This could not have happened at a better time. We are woke. The world is woke. We are the cure. Let us share it in large doses.
Let us not forget!