The Light of George Floyd

Today George Floyd was laid to rest after making his mark in history beyond what he could have ever imagined. In 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the world went from teetering from the brink of the deleterious and profound impacts caused by the uncertainty of COVID-19 to now weeks of the civil unrest. The death of George Floyd at the hands of the police sparked a national and global response of pain, sorrow, fear and outrage – outrage that resulted in mostly peaceful protests, but also fires, looting, vandalism, shootings and injuries of both police and civilians. On the heels of almost 2 million reported COVID-19 cases and over 100 thousand recorded deaths, months of social isolation, quarantine and a litany of police and quasi-police killing of black men and women, it was a perfect storm of circumstances. These events along with political posturing and bridled emotions resulted in an almost ubiquitous eruption of a volcano of grief, frustration, insecurity, inequity and injustice – a collective – enough is enough! With a sigh of relief of the news of the charges against those who took George Floyd’s life, there is also some skepticism about the conviction and sentencing of these officers. The past does not give us much hope, not to mention the tone-def response and lack of mature and wise leadership at national level. George Floyd died on May 25th, Memorial Day – the day we honor and commemorate those military men and women who have given their lives in service of the country. That is -- fighting for the liberties and values of our democracy. How poignant that George Floyd would also die or that day – as he died giving rise to the gross disparity of who we say we are as a nation and how far we are from that ideal. He too, along with so many others before him, died in service for the liberties and values our democracy. As a black woman, scholar and pastor, I see these events through many different lenses. As a woman, a black woman, I see these events through the lens of being raised by parents who lived in the era of Jim Crow in the deep south. This lens is tinted with the reality lived by my parents and their parents. I see, in so many ways, what I have always seen – the ugly hand of imperialist racism giving permission to kill our husbands, fathers, sons, nephews, and uncles with impunity. But I also see the work of brave black woman and men who lead the way and paid the price so that I can go to a hotel and not have to walk through the kitchen because the front door is prohibited because of the color of my skin. I also see the work of Dr. Martin Luther King that affords me the freedom to eat at a lunch counter that was once designated and defended as “whites only.” As a scholar whose work intersects race, religion and criminal justice, my view is steeped in my research and the body of literature which covers the topics. I have researched and written an award-winning article about race and impact of mass incarceration on African Americans, specifically, their reentry back into communities they call home. As an editor, of the Encyclopedia of African Americans and Criminal Justice, I am all too familiar and disheartened with what is the dark past and present of our Criminal Justice System. Our justice system in America has been used in the most inhumane ways to assure superiority and subjugation. This is not only true in our Criminal Justice System but it is true of all of our institutions and systems – including education, economics, politics, social welfare, housing and so much more. As a pastor and spiritual leader, my view of these past few weeks are seen through the lens of faith! My mom used to say, “God ain’t sleeping and He ain’t dead.” She was declaring the God is a God of Justice. Although it is clear that systemic and institutional racism is alive and well because it is nurtured and sustained at the highest levels of our society, it is also clear that God hears the cries of the oppressed! Throughout history we have and do now see the inhumanity of humanity. We are all his children and one group whether by race, ethnicity, skin color or culture – does not possess the right to oppress the other.

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