By John Thomas, III, Editor
George Floyd was murdered. He did not lose his life. The life in his body was brutally taken from him. As I write this editorial, investigators are still piecing together the actions that lead to the eight minutes and 46 seconds of horror that were replayed millions of times as Officer Chauvin ripped the life away from a father, community leader, evangelist, friend, citizen, and human being. What we do know is that while the proximate causes of Mr. Floyd’s death lie in police brutality, his true murderer is white supremacy. As the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded in his eulogy of Mr. Floyd, America must “get her knee off our necks!”
Protests have spread across the United States in over 350 cities with the National Guard deployed in 23 states. This level of civil unrest has not been seen in decades. Social media timelines are bleeding with photos and videos of inexplicable police brutality towards protestors irrespective of color or age. Years of militarization through federal programs offering surplus military materiel combined with changes to policing methods have unmasked many police officers as no more than thugs with badges. The protest cries of “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” ring true as we wrestle with the very nature of “law enforcement.”
If continuously reliving the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other martyrs to white supremacy is not enough, the incumbent president does not even offer a veneer of consolation. President Trump will do anything to survive and assuage his ego even if it means letting the very nation he swore to protect and defend burn around the Executive Mansion.
In the prominent international journal Foreign Policy, a headline read “With Scenes of Police Brutality, America’s Light to the World Winks Out.” Even as the United States Government castigates Iran and China with their treatment of protestors for democratic rights, the specter of widespread police brutality is thrown back in its face echoing Soviet propaganda during the civil rights movement showing police dogs attacking Black protestors. The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright’s prophetic words uttered years ago about the place of the United States in the world that caused countless to turn and shun him, today, clearly ring true.
I have processed this moment as a Black man. When I first saw the video of George Floyd’s murder, I had no words. A friend of mine asked me how I felt and I had no words. I did not find my words until I participated in a march in Chicago on the Northside led by several Black residents. Thousands of persons participated and listening to other Black people share their voice helped me to find the words that I shared on Facebook: “I am tired. I’m tired of the George Floyds and Breonna Taylors we hear about and the ones that we don’t. I’m tired of a President who is content to throw gasoline on a fire. I’m tired of the assumption that respectability politics will save Black people and Black Church folks who want no part in anything if they can’t be ‘prophetic’ and lead.”
I am comforted by the fact that in addition to the dizzying array of news and punditry that floods my inbox, I see stories of AME Church clergy and laity who have stood up to help their communities navigate this watershed moment. This is a time for the church of Allen to boldly live what we know to be right beyond the safety of statements, pulpits, and social media advocacy. We as Christians and members of the AME Church will be called to a variety of roles. Sometimes we will be called to lead; and at other times, we will be called to assist. Sometimes we might not ever hear our names mentioned or get the megaphone but we must be present. We know that Jesus Christ does not change and we must proclaim the Jesus that we know, especially in the face of a president and others who would use religion as a tool to silence and support the egregious acts that we see before our eyes.
The anger of Black Americans suffering under the crushing weight of four centuries of white supremacy is boiling over yet again: and, the resolution is uncertain at this moment. What is clear is that this is a time for all of us to find our words and in our own way proclaim, “We will breathe!”