"I can't breathe!" These words have been said by both Eric Garner and George Floyd while they were being restrained by police in a manner that caused these panicked utterances to be some of their last. The murder of George Floyd happened during the same week that Christopher Cooper was able to avert what could have been a similar situation perpetrated against him as he simply asked that a white woman obey the laws of the park they both were enjoying and keep her dog on a leash. Her response was to use her privilege to threaten him and then call for the police with the lying claim that she was being attacked by an African-American man. Thank God that Mr. Cooper was video recording the event and that he kept his cool throughout.
Sadly, these are not rare occurrences. Many people of color, perhaps most, have experienced injustice at the hands of both authority figures and by our white brothers and sisters acting out of a sense of superiority and privilege that is based in the entanglements of the backdrop of racism that permeates so much of our society.
I speak as one who has experienced mistreatment by police, the bias of teachers, profiling by shopkeepers, demeaning presumptuousness by peers. I know what it is to have someone assume that they need to put you in your place because of your color or treat you as a crime waiting to happen. I know rage. I can relate to the anger burning within against such injustices and the frustration and fear of knowing that your children, especially your sons, will be confronted by life and death situations merely because of the color of their skin and not because of the content of their character.
My heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones to this race based hostility. My prayers are with all who continue to live with the pressure that it brings. I pray for those police officers and others of good character who are erroneously grouped with those who act unjustly. I also pray for those who don't understand it, dismiss it, excuse it, and even perpetuate this sinfulness.
This is not new! However it is being exposed to the public more than ever because so many people live with a video camera in their pocket. I also think that there is a new boldness that gives license to racist outbursts because of the example that is set by many of our political leaders... and, regrettably, even some of our religious leaders.
Ultimately, the answer to this is Jesus Christ. Not the false Christ of the imagination of the extreme right, nor the powerless and standardless fanciful Christ created by the imagination of the extreme left ....but the true Christ of Scripture. The Christ who changes hate filled hearts into one's filled with perfecting love. The Christ who changes arrogant sinners, who assume no responsibility for anything, into repentant believers who know that they are their brother's keeper. The Christ whose sheep come from every tribe and every tongue and every nation and view each other as brothers and sisters. The Christ whose Spirit causes his true disciples to boldly speak the truth in love and, as much as it depends upon them, to live peaceably with everyone.
I know this beyond the shadow of a doubt because it is only by the Spirit of Christ that the rage in me is kept at bay, overcome by the grace of salvation, and turned toward pointing others to the cross. While we do need accountability. While we must continue to strive for justice. While we must work for a better understanding to improve relationships and diminish the ignorance that fuels racism... The fact of the matter is, only God can change hearts. And, it is hearts that must be changed.
Romans 12:19-21 (ESV); Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.