My heart is broken and my mind is racing, none of this makes sense. How can a police officer have his knee on the neck of a hand-cuffed man, ignore the clear cries that he cannot breathe, refuse to treat him with common human decency, basically (I don’t know how else to put it) murder the man, and not be arrested? I don’t want to believe what I’m about to write, but it is hard to see another conclusion—was it because the man in custody was black? [* Note: more information has come to light since this post was written. Although it does not vindicate the officer fully from all wrong doing, it does reveal much more to the story. Having said that, my heart still breaks for the black community and its experiences, whether or not I fully agree with the popular narrative.]
I know the response and I’m sure there are statistics that can be quoted to explain to me that this happens to other groups regularly too and they’re simply not reported as loudly by the media. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know. What I do know is that it shouldn’t happen to anyone and we see it happening to the African American community again and again. And it has to stop.
We have to be honest with ourselves. I was watching the Ken Burns classic documentary Baseball and you know what has been a theme throughout the first few episodes? Racism against the African American community. As a historian, I want to push us to understand, history matters, context matters, and hundreds of years of being treated as less than human impacts a people group—of course it does!
Sure, some will point out, we had a black president and we have African Americans in high offices throughout this country. This is wonderful. But it doesn’t change the treatment so often received, it doesn’t change the injustices faced, it doesn’t change the oppression experienced. As I’ve mentioned before, as an Armenian who was born generations after the Armenian Genocide, in the diaspora, and in relative wealth compared to what my ancestors had, I still feel the marks of the atrocities my people went through. And I don’t sense much racism against us today, not like my black brothers and sisters do.
But I said my mind was racing… and here’s why? Looters. Let’s not confuse protestors and looters. They are not the same. Looters undo the work being done for the cause they claim they’re rioting for. Looters simply confirm whatever unjust stereotypes people have of “them”. Looters give those watching a reason to dismiss the injustices and turn from the main issues. Yes, looters are expressing an anguish and anger that has long been their experience—maybe. I don’t know if I buy that. Sin is sin. I think some (many, most?) are taking advantage of an opportunity and it is ugly and it harms the cause.
There’s something more here that causes my mind to race—my Christian brothers and sisters. I am not a social justice warrior (is that what they’re called?). I am, and hope to be, a Gospel-centered Christian. If the Lord Jesus were here, I can’t help but think He would be comforting the afflicted, the outcasts, those who have endured the pain of racism for so long. He wouldn’t focus on pointing to their faults first (“he was a criminal” or “wait for all the facts to come out”), He would show them compassion, introduce Himself to them, and then tell them to sin no more. There’s an order, an approach, I think we often are missing it.
I wish that we Christians would be more compassionate, more gracious, and more helpful to communities that are suffering. Instead, at times, we end up almost pushing these suffering communities to other groups that appear to offer them more. But those groups have nothing to really offer and we do—at least, we should. We have the Gospel, we have the Savior, we have the promise of life eternal and the coming Kingdom of righteousness and justice… shouldn’t we be the ones showing the way?
George Floyd was unjustly killed. There must be consequences for the police officer who did this. There is a significant pervasive issue with racism that still remains in our society. Looters must be stopped and their rioting punished. The only answer to any and all of this is: Come, Lord Jesus, come and bring with you your justice and peace.