I am writing in response to the tragic killing of George Floyd, unarmed, by an officer of the law. Three other officers did absolutely nothing. The video is extremely painful to watch, a man slowly dying before our eyes. Horrendous. This tragedy has ignited deep outrage among people, especially African Americans, who are forced to live in fear due to the racism that has embedded itself in all of our social and cultural institutions for four hundred years!!! The breaking point has just occurred and is being given voice through the countless protests throughout the country.
The pandemic crisis we have been living through these past two months has given us a clear picture of the ravages of systemic racism. The virus has had the worst impact in The African American community, as well as, Hispanic/Latino community. People of color and the poor are suffering in disproportionate numbers in the pandemic due to the lack of adequate health care and access to proper care. What happened to George Floyd is revealing the insidious plague of racism that has infected every aspect of life in America.
Those of us who are White must take a good, long look in the mirror and see clearly how privileged we are. As white people, none of us has to think and worry daily about our race and how we are constantly being treated and looked at by those in power. I have never been afraid of the police because I have no reason to fear. My own uncle was a Chicago police officer who served in the Black community in the 1960’s and during the riots and Convention in 1968. His voice was a voice of compassion for the poverty he witnessed and he tried to be an advocate.
But I was raised in an all White suburb where racism lived very subtly, almost under the radar. There were no people of color in my neighborhood, parish and school. Things started to change as the Vietnam War was slowly coming to an end and my high school education began to address issues of racism. Suspicions were raised at reading To Kill A Mockingbird and what was being discussed in the classroom. My world was slowly opening up and the tense discussions about race surfaced in my family and with friends.
Throughout the years, I have tried to face my own racism, my prejudged attitudes about African Americans that have taken root given the world in which I grew up. My work with Jewish people during and after high school became the catalyst to seeing my own anti semitism, which led to a deeper awareness of racism in my life. Awareness of the hatred became a means to unearth the roots of this fear leading to prejudice. It’s a life long battle that will truly be life long.
We are a people of faith and we believe deeply and firmly that God created ALL human beings in love and in equality of dignity. But something happened that created a fissure within the human power that divides and creates wars to protect power over and against those believed to be inferior. This a sin, a mortal sin, that infects us in so many ways. As people of faith, we must respond by standing naked before God, letting God into those cracks and fissures deep within our hearts which express racist attitudes. If we are going to be pro-life we must actively acknowledge this moral virus in our hearts, families, culture and church.
Yes, our Church must face its own racism that is present in ordained leaders and the laity. We are not as diverse as we think we are, since diversity brings together people of different races, cultural and economic backgrounds, political persuasions, sexual orientation, and varieties of spiritual/theological perspectives. Diversity can only happen when we truly want to dialogue and get to know people who are different in many ways.
This time of social unrest, as we pray for George Floyd and his family, can be a graced moment of soul searching and the examination of conscience, not just our own, but the conscience of our nation.