June 2, 2020
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the protests that have followed, and the riots that have come on the heels of those protests, have all combined to draw our country into a deeper state of chaos and hardship beyond the pandemic. It can feel like we are experiencing one crisis after another with little end in sight. I would submit, however, that these events place on the verge of positive improvements.
It is important to keep in mind that while this looks like chaos, none of this came out of nowhere.
The killing of Mr. Floyd didn’t just happen in isolation. It was part of a pattern of racially motivated violence against black people that dates back centuries. While former officer Derek Chauvin committed the act, he is actually a small cog in a very large wheel of white privilege and white supremacy that has become normalized not only within policing but in wider society.
Consequently, the protests that have followed this brutal act have also not come from nowhere. They are a natural, appropriate and too-long-delayed reaction to this kind of endemic injustice. They are cathartic expressions of grief, anger, and hope.
The riots that have followed have, additionally, not come from nowhere. They are a predictable extension of the anger that too many have felt for too long. To be sure, rioters are not trying to make a constructive statement—just the opposite in fact. Still, the anger is real and has been allowed to simmer for too long. Now it is boiling over. But it isn’t just the small business owners who are feeling the devastation from these riots. All of those who are peacefully protesting are as well because their constructive message is being overshadowed by the destructive riots.
Our country is wounded and hurting and divided. Healing and evolution will come about through changes in elected officials, changes in policing, and changes to ensure the safety and equal social status of black people. Healing without change isn’t healing at all.
Ultimately, the change that is needed can’t be legislated (although that will certainly help). It comes about through the expansion of our social heart. It is about letting go of taken-for-granted ways of being, acting and organizing society so that new ways can be embraced; ways that celebrate our common humanity and the gifts we all bring to this life.
I believe it starts with our own acts of compassion, advocating and community building which have always been at the heart of First Congregational Church and always will be.
Below is a link to a commentary on this topic from the General Minister and President of our United Church of Christ, Rev. John Dorhauer.