I’ve always chosen to live out Jesus’ commandment to “Love others as I have loved you.” I am struggling with what is happening in my country. My emotions and thoughts are all over the place. I am appalled by what officers did to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all crimes against others because of the color of their skin. I am frustrated by those who are choosing to destroy property and kill innocent bystanders. I am dumbfounded by what the president did to peaceful protesters – for a photo op! The devil is having a field day with America right now.
When I saw the video of Mr. Floyd’s arrest, I couldn’t believe how the officer had his hands in his pockets and the look on his face was the look many have as they kneel down to have a casual day at the beach! Even with people asking to check on George Floyd, people saying you are killing him, and most importantly the words of Mr. Floyd – “I can’t breathe” – the officer was unaffected. Some want to say this was just excessive force and not racially motivated. I don’t know how one can’t see this as racially motivated. The fact that this officer wasn’t arrested immediately is racial. If it had been a black officer kneeing on a white man, that officer would have been arrested immediately. There is a double stander in this country.
As a teacher of Ancient World History and U.S. History, I have to teach my students that since the beginning of man there has been a desire to belittle and control others. We study slavery in every culture we study, including early Mesopotamia, ancient Israel, the Roman Empire, ancient China, as well as the United States. Slavery has always existed, and unfortunately, to my students’ disbelief, slavery still exists. These are hard conversations to have, but they are necessary to educate and to change things. Every year, I tell my students that they need to educate themselves on past and current oppressions so they can change the world. Because of the events of the past few weeks, I pray that parents, government officials, school officials, churches, and community leaders are having these hard conversations.
A huge irony of this country’s history is that the first colonists fled their home countries because they were being oppressed, and they ended up oppressing the Native Americans and others who were different than them. Last year was the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship arriving in the English colonies. While the slave ship was captured, the colonists didn’t send the ship away. They kept the ship and its contents – including the African slaves. A few of the slaves became indentured servants, which is a “fancy” form of slavery, but most became slaves working on farms. The colonists now had the taste of slavery as a workforce for their farms.
I used some of the materials in The New York Times Magazine’s The1619 Project in my classroom this past year. The Project has some very thought-provoking articles and poems – created by African-American journalists and artists. The poem “Middle Passage” by Clint Smith is deeply moving and gut retching about the Middle Passage of the trade triangle – the side going from Africa to the New World transporting slaves. I used this poem in my classroom to try to help my students understand what the slaves endured. As a white teacher, I feel it is my responsibility to teach my students, and anyone I encounter, to respect the history and culture of others. The first step in respecting each other is educating ourselves on what each other is enduring. I can sympathize with my minority students, but I can’t empathize because I’m white. (I encourage you to read the Project, there is a link at the end of my blog.)
While I don’t condone the destruction of property and killing of bystanders, like during many of the protests, I do understand the need to protest. This country was founded on protests. The colonists were being taxed without representation in Parliament, their property was being seized and destroyed by British soldiers, and they were being forced to buy goods only from Britain. The colonists sent representatives to talk to British officials and pled their cause, which Parliament ignored. In the end, the colonists were left with no choice but to protest. Unfortunately, many were killed during those protests – which led to the Revolutionary war. The American Revolution inspired the French Revolution. Maybe what is happening in America right now can inspire others to stand up again the injustice in their country.
When early Christian Americans realized they could use African slaves to work their farms for them, they felt they needed to justify the enslavement of humans. This is when the myths about those of color were started. It hurts me to my core that there are still those who consider themselves Christians that still believe these myths, and think they are better than anyone else. Jesus Christ would seek out those who were the societal outcasts and show them love. He shared God’s love, mercy, and compassion with ALL people – even those who were trying to kill Him. The Good Shepherd would leave the 99 to find the one. He gave His life so we would have life. I wonder, when Jesus comes again will He be treated the same as He was before – there were those who knew Christ as the Son of God and those who wanted to kill Him because they felt He threated their power. Remember, Jesus was from the Middle East – His skin wouldn’t have been white. Will Jesus be treated with love or with hate?
In trying to find comfort in the Bible, I read Proverbs and my heart dropped when I read the following:
Proverbs 29: 22-23, 25
“An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.
A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.
The fear of man is a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is set securely on high.”
Because everyone has a different background and interprets scripture differently, here is what I see in the above verses. To me, the first verse is saying that when we see injustice we need to do something to stop it, but not let our anger take over and cause us to do things against God. The second verse is reminding us when our pride takes over we will fall into sin, but when we are humble we can bring honor to our cause. The last verse is reminding us that when we let fear guide us we will fail, but when we trust God to guide us we will succeed. We can’t let our anger and fear control us, this is what the devil wants so we stray from God and His plan for us. When we fear others because of the color of their skin, their religion, their culture, their beliefs, their sexual preference, their lifestyle, or anything different than us, we are falling into the devil’s snare. Jesus told us to love each other and showed us how to see in our differences we can find common ground to work together for the better good.
2020 has been filled with many incidents to cause fear: Covid-19, stay at home orders, unemployment, schools shutting down, riots, earthquakes, hurricanes, all on top of everyday struggles. The world is one big ball of stress and needs a big hug. We need to use this time to focus on what we can do to better ourselves and help others. We need to start to live more Christ like and share God’s love, mercy, peace, comfort, and compassion with others. We can’t be shellfish and keep it all for our ourselves. Speak out and don’t stay silent any longer. This world won’t change if we stay silent. There are countless times that Christ stood-up for those who were being unjustly ignored and persecuted. We must stand-up against injustice – it’s what Jesus did.