My almost toddler has taken to using me as a climbing apparatus. He clambers up me while I’m sitting in a chair so he can see out a window or just for the fun of it. Oftentimes, I get a tiny hand or foot to the throat in the process. When that happens, I cough and splutter trying to get him safely off my throat. I hate the sensation. Even a tiny bit of pressure creates such a sense of urgency to clear this happy little climber off my throat. This week that physical sense of urgency has been followed by waves of grief.
8 minutes and 46 seconds.
Words cannot express grief, the horror of the murder of George Floyd. A white officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. He knelt on his neck when George Floyd said over and over “I can’t breathe.” He knelt on his neck while this made in the image of God man called out for his dead Mama. When Floyd became unresponsive, that officer kept kneeling on his neck. When the paramedics showed up, he kept kneeling.
We watched a murder on our Newsfeed, and now our nation is on fire.
But the truth is our nation has always been on fire. It’s been on fire since before it was a nation. It was on fire when the first enslaved African people were kidnapped and sold to the colonizers. It was on fire when the Founding Fathers went to war over taxes while profiting off the scarred backs of the made in the image of God humans they owned. It was on fire when the constitution was written to protect the freedoms of white, land owning men. It was on fire when Southern states committed treason rather than reduce their profits by admitting the people in their fields were indeed people and not property. It was on fire when slavery was outlawed, except in the case of imprisoned people. It was on fire when the war on drugs was manufactured as an excuse to lock up as many Black people as possible. Its on fire now when cellphone cameras are showing us how Black people have always been treated by cops.
Those fires in the streets are the 400 year old volcano that was always going to burn this whole thing to the ground.
A lot of white folks, especially White Evangelicals got mad when Colin Kapernick knelt during the anthem. They got defensive when people started chanting Black Lives Matter. They’re real concerned about the looting, the fires, the destruction. But it took looting for them to start talking about a Black man being murdered by cops. We’re still more concerned about property than the lives of people.
White Christians, we must do better, but to doing better starts with acknowledging our sin, confessing and repenting. This is hard work but necessary. Educating ourselves on the systems of racism in our country is necessary, but all the education in the world isn’t going to change our hearts. We have to lay our sin and the sins of our nation at the cross of Christ and mourn and repent for the death we have sown. We need to learn how to lament by doing the work of lamenting. We need to see our sin for what it is, call it by its name, and repent.
And yes, we must educate ourselves. We can coast through our lives never seeing the systems of racism at play because those systems actually prop our lives instead of tearing them down. So we have to do the work of learning, especially of learning things that are hard for us to swallow.