I had an extraordinary opportunity this week to attend a protest in my community. It was coordinated by the county Minority Coalition, and was held on the campus of our local community college. People carried signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Say Their Names,” etc. It is estimated that close to 500 local citizens attended, and we were moved and uplifted by speakers, singers, clergy people, and the feeling that we were collectively hearing a raw truth that was spoken in voices pleading to be heard and understood. This truth, so beautifully and passionately articulated, was heard by many for the first time. It is a truth that has endured for many generations.
In the wake of the George Floyd murder, the world is beginning to wake up to a reality that our brothers and sisters have been enduring for centuries. Statues are coming down, aggressive force practices and chokehold policies are being rescinded, the NFL has apologized, and NASCAR has outlawed the Confederate flag.
Our local chief of police and the county sheriff spoke at the demonstration. The sheriff spoke compassionately about the injustices that have brought us to this point, and emphasized the need for community policing. He described the death of George Floyd as a criminal act.
The sheriff remarked, “One thing you can be sure of, that it is not the badge you wear that makes you the officer. It is the heart behind this badge.”
One of the most powerful moments of the evening came when we were invited to stand or kneel in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. That was the length of time it took for one officer’s knee to shut off the life from another man’s neck. 526 seconds that changed the world.
Maybe it took a pandemic to get our attention. Black men and women have been killed by racial injustice and prejudice for decades…maybe it took the world literally stopping for people to focus long enough to really see this issue and begin to understand all that has been happening for generations. In the absence of life’s normal busyness and frantic pace, we have paused long enough to see. To hear. To listen. And eventually, to change.
“Together we have the power for change,” the president of the Minority Coalition said. “It is it now at this moment that we summon the powers to right the wrongs that have happened all throughout history from ancient to more recent times. We must use these powers for the good of all of us, especially the least among us. We must inspire change in the world with hopes that injustice will fail, and justice shall prevail…We will fear the darkness no more.”
Amos 5 (New Revised Standard Edition)
Seek good and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
just as you have said.
15 Hate evil and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
With God’s help, we shall overcome. Today is the day.