May 25th of this year, George Floyd died during a police arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Soon after, a video taken by a passerby showing Floyd’s arrest and ensuing agony circulated on social media in the U.S. and around the world, eventually becoming a major international news headline. The horrifying scenes of Floyd crying “I can’t breathe”, immobile under the weight of several police officers of which one in particular pressed his knee into his neck during 8 minutes 46 seconds, sparked world-wide indignation. These images brought to remembrance other incidents, such as the one that started the movement “Black Lives Matter”. Yet this video didn’t only reverberate with Americans. Demonstrations throughout the world (the U.S., France, Australia, England, Mexico, Belgium, the Netherlands…) took place as people evoked similar events in their own countries.
The idea behind this article isn’t to assess all of the problems that corrupt our societies, nor to try to explain the causes for such an event. I don’t have the knowledge nor experience necessary to do so. Instead, I would like to talk about my response to this situation and the personal task we all have in order to come out of it with something positive.
« Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
These words have even more importance when we realize they come from one of the many speeches given by Martin Luther King Jr. who, throughout the 1960s, led peaceful demonstrations for black civil rights and against racial segregation in the U.S.
Sixty years later, what have we learned from History?
I can understand anger being fostered in people’s hearts just as I can understand the tears of those who are the victims of injustice on a daily basis. Truthfully, when I saw the video of George Floyd’s arrest and death, I myself felt the same anger mixed with profound sadness. And just when I thought it was gone, it crept back as I saw, read, or heard certain remarks on the subject. It resurfaced several times when I heard this violence, this death, justified under the pretext of criminal record, as if this were something engraved in our skin giving others the right to kill us according to our pasts.
As a Christian, I wondered how I could be so offended, even disgusted by such remarks, all the while loving the person who makes them. How could be angry with some police officers and our institutions while also respecting authorities? And how is it that I can feel so much resentment when facing certain facts all while having Jesus in my life?
I am fully persuaded that nothing good can come out of such anger. Denying it takes a conscious daily effort and help from God. “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” (Psalm 37:8). The response, the solution, and the one thing that can drive out this anger, is LOVE.
You most likely wonder why this story has so much importance. What is the reason behind this worldwide reaction that has lead thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of French people to rise up and protest in several different cities throughout France?
No doubt because similar things take place in France, and the French know that this situation doesn’t only concern a man 4,000 miles away in Minneapolis. Also, the police have a duty to be an example to the public; an officer’s job is to make people respect the law, to maintain order, and to ensure our safety. Therefore, it is not normal for someone to feel danger in the presence of certain police officers. Or maybe, these types of violent acts question an entire political system that reaches far beyond individual incidents. And, of course, many people don’t benefit from the same rights as everyone else and are constant victims of discrimination on the pretext of their skin color. But most importantly, there is a great need for LOVE.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Each of us must work toward the same objective: love.
In the Bible, Jesus tells us in Matthew 5, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” In Galatians 5:14 is written, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Thus, these two verses helped me realign my thoughts and abandon my anger.
It’s not a matter of lacking respect for authority or fighting against the police and our institutions. It’s not a question of one life counting more than another. It’s about condemning what’s wrong; not the people against the police, nor blacks against whites, but a fight against racism and injustice. Each and every one of us should take part in this fight with love, and should feel concerned about this issue.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
“Listen to the forest that grows rather than the tree that falls.”
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
These demonstrations don’t only consist of riots, looting, and violence. The more extreme examples are only a small part of the reaction when compared to all of the peaceful demonstrations around the world and the movement on social media.
Ideally, what should come out of all this is unity, support, understanding of one another, spreading of knowledge, diversity of voices being heard (white, black, famous, retired, young, etc), people taking firm stands, and big brands taking action.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Change begins in our hearts.
We must take on the task of introspection—silence, ignorance, the lack of compassion, despising of others, selfishness, intolerance, denial, and the minimizing and justification of offensive acts must stop…
We must examine, educate, and correct ourselves and others. We must try to understand each other, raise awareness, accept change and difference, and fight against the tolerance of racism in our society, whether explicit or implicit. But most importantly, we must LOVE.
This fight, I assure you, is everyone’s fight.
“Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
Let us love one another.