Throughout this past week, we have watched - and many of us have participated - as men, women, and children from communities and cities across the country went to the streets to protest the realities of racial injustice and police brutality and their disproportionate effect on the African American community. The cries of #BlackLivesMatter remind us that systemic racism is not only a historic problem, but its insidiousness still exists today.
Earlier this week, in a podcast conversation with Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, we discussed the sins of historic and present racism and how it manifested itself in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, set out for a jog in Brunswick, Georgia, one afternoon in late February. Only a few short months later, on Monday, May 25, in Minneapolis, George Floyd - a 46-year-old black man - cried out for help as a police officer used his knee on Floyd’s neck to pin him - unarmed and handcuffed - to the ground…until he died.
Consider how many other black lives have been lost to police violence and deaths because of racial profiling in just the last few years - Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Alsharay Ford, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others.
I had the privilege of speaking with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church this week on the #Activism podcast. In Bishop Curry’s words, “The killing of George Floyd: it was broadcast and it was videotaped. It was so egregious, obviously so, that it unearthed what was already there.” The decades of killing and police force that has brutalized the black community. Bishop Curry reminded us that the death of George Floyd was so obviously egregious that even police unions around the country deplored it.
How did our president respond? Peaceful protestors who had gathered outside were cleared out of the way by tear gas and other means as President Trump marched triumphantly to St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House. Later, a White House promotional video showed President Trump standing in front of the church, holding up the Bible, with triumphant music playing, he pulsed the sacred book into the air. The president then returned to the White House, where he once again passed riot police and gave a fist bump in seeming solidarity with the police as the video came to an end.
The president’s response and exploitation of our Holy Bible as a sacred symbol should grieve the church. We should be grieved by the White House’s inaction and contributions to systemic racism, and we should be grieved by this Administration’s policies toward the Middle East, including the impending annexation of the West Bank and the continued denial of rights and equality for the Palestinian people.
Join us in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and others around the country who are committed to racial justice and calling for desperately needed domestic social reforms. In quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus reminded his followers that he came to earth to “proclaim good news to the poor” and to “set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18-19).
Christ’s message is one of hope for the poor, freedom for the captives, and a call for biblical justice that allows for all of humanity to have access to resources and hope for equality and a prosperous future. May it be so for all in Palestine, Israel, and the Middle East. And may it be so for all people who live in the United States.
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a tax-exempt non-profit organization, under the section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and therefore all charitable donations are deductible to the full extent allowed by law.