Brothers and sisters of faith: Black lives matter.
In Brunswick, Ga., Ahmaud Arberyhad gone for a run. While jogging, he paused and walked through a building site to look at a house being constructed.Apparently seen by white neighbors, he was chased down by two pick-up trucks, hit by one, cornered by both, then shot three times with a shot gun. Ahmaud Arbery was twenty-five.
In Louisville, Ky., Breonna Taylorwas twenty-six years old. She had just finished a long day of work as an Emergency Medical Technician. She saved lives for a living and was an aspiring nurse. She was unarmed and sleeping. Her door was broken down, her home was invaded by She was shot eight times by police in what has been described as a “botched raid.” The officers were looking for someone else. She would have been twenty-seven on June 3.
In Minneapolis, George Floydwas arrested and had been standing with the arresting officers, unarmed, peaceful and respectful. Ten minutes and a long, calculated, inhumane knee-on-the-neck-choke-hold later, he was dead. The other three officers watched, listened to Mr. George saying he couldn’t breathe, heard bystanders calling out to them to stop, to let him up, to let him breathe. At least one member of the crowd was forcibly pushed away when he tried to intervene. None of the officers attempted to provide him with medical assistance. George Floyd was forty-six.
Given the circumstances, what we now know and what we can see for ourselves, the evidence appears to point in a tragic, suspicious and terribly troubling direction.
These lives, specifically, these black lives didn’t appear to matter.
The casual nature of the kneeling on a man’s neck, hearing his cries for help and mercy, and no apparent sense of compassion, concern, empathy or even humanity? From all we can see in the actions and inactions of these officers, it appears George Floyd’s life didn’t matter.
Breonna Taylor’s horrible death, an invasion of her home, a mistaken identity, a cold-blooded killing, and the eventual description of her death as a “botched raid?” To the Louisville police and to the officers who shot her eight times in her sleep, it feels like her life did not matter.
Ahmaud Arbery’s story would never have been known had a New York Times journalist not heard about it by chance. For months, his death was swept under the administrative rug of the Brunswick judicial system. Local law enforcement knew the two white men who stalked and killed him. Their motives seemed to raise no concerns beyond the African-American community in Brunswick. Their vigilante style of chase and execution was defended by many, and even seemed celebrated by quite a few. They were not arrested or even thoroughly questioned until the story began to be heard beyond Brunswick’s tight knit law enforcement community. The terrifying nature of the hunt that terrorized him, the almost execution style of the shotgun blasts that killed him, and the apparent cover up that followed, like with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, feels like, looks like and seems like Ahmaud Arbery’s life didn’t matter.
Therefore, it is time for white people to begin to say without hesitation and without qualification: Black lives do matter.
A friend of mine not long ago said:
“If white folks like me had done a better job much sooner and more thoroughly calling out racist behavior, standing for racial justice and listening more carefully to the concerns and hurts of our African-American friends, neighbors and fellow citizens, there never would have been a need for Black Lives MatterBut we didn’t. Now we must.”
So let us, together, do what is right. I know from many conversations with many of you how concerned you are and have been. I know that our beloved congregation has often been at the forefront of important social change. I know there is a great gladness of the many legacies those who have gone before us have bequeathed to our generations. For all that we can be thankful. We also must respond redemptively now, and move with the current waves of deep concern for racial justice, long overdue reforms in police departments across the nation, and the pressing need for white people to finally recognize the true reality and the widespread nature of systemic racism in our land.
A vital starting point for us all is to simply say with conviction, love and commitment to doing the work of God: Black lives matter.
Let us say it. But even more, let us live it, practice it and allow God to use us to heal our world. Let’s get to work!
I have run throughout and around the communities where I have lived. I have also allowed my curiosity to get the better of me. I, too, have wandered through construction sites wondering what studded, unfinished rooms still open to the outside were going to be when completed. As a white guy, it never occurred to me either could be dangerous or viewed with suspicion.