Breathing While Black Should Be A Given

George Floyd — and many other Black people — should be alive today

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Mural By Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, Niko Alexander, and Pablo Hernandez/ Photo By Lorie Shaull

More than 2,000 years ago, loved ones watched helplessly as the State murdered an innocent Black man…slowly. His death took hours not less than nine minutes. Nails pierced his hands and his feet. Society was convinced he was a threat. So, Jesus had to die. His loved ones stood beneath his cross and cried out.

Mourning In Public

Today, the loved ones of one Black person after another cry out in front of microphones and television cameras. Or like George Floyd’s young daughter, clinging to her mother, trying to process why she’s standing there and daddy’s gone. George Floyd joined a seemingly never-ending list of Black people senselessly killed by police.

Progress Hasn’t Guaranteed Right To Life

The Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal and that God gave them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When written, the latter only applied to land-owning White men. Progress since then includes putting President Barack Obama in the White House. That progress hasn’t ended state-sanctioned murders of Black people.

Like Jesus, we are seen as threats to society until proved otherwise — just for being Black. Some people dismiss these state-sanctioned murders accusing victims of not obeying the law. Resisting arrest has become law enforcement’s go-to justification for brutal and, often, fatal interactions. Videos clearly show George Floyd didn’t resist the officers.

White Perps Nearly Always Survive

Ironically, White perpetrators suspected of committing violent felonies — not allegedly passing a counterfeit 20 dollar bill — always manage to survive arrest. Police offer the killer who stole the lives of church leaders and worshipers at Mother Emanuel AME received water and food on the way to jail. George Floyd’s killer refused his only request: “Let me breathe.”

Black People Often Considered Threats, Not Americans

Many police officers continue seeing Black people as threats and, yes, three-fifths of a human being. But, Black boys & men, including George Floyd, Ahamaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin, to name a few. Then there is Tony McDade, a transgender man, who is as much a man as a cisgender man. We will continue to fight to protect all Black lives. #ALLBLACK LIVES.

Fighting for all #ALLBLACKLIVES means getting justice for Breonna Taylor, Sandra Taylor, Ataiana Jefferson, and Sandra Bland, just a few of the Black women killed by police. We must say their names. All of these Black people, whether queer or straight, are gifts of God.

Fighting for #ALLBLACKLIVES means speaking truth to power is crucial. Millions of Americans have occupied streets across the nation since George Floyd’s murder. Black people are no longer saying, “Please stop killing us.” We’re demanding it. Graphic images of George’s murder forced allies to strengthen their commitment.

Power Hungry Leaders Perverting Democracy

Our current leadership would rather its power than uphold the Constitution. Tear gas cleared peaceful protesters and clergy from both the street and St. John’s Episcopal Church property to flaunt that power.

Using the church as a backdrop doesn’t mean God supports denying protesters’ right to assemble and Black people’s right to breathe. Our still speaking God doesn’t bless the various ways current leadership has codified and supports the further dehumanization and demoralization of Black people.

What we want

Minister for Racial, Social, and Economic Justice (MRSA), a historically underrepresented group of the United Church of Christ, condemns the police officers — and their enablers who snatched these gifts from us. We demand justice for each and every life lost.

And, we demand that law enforcement throughout the nation acknowledge that policies and procedures for policing communities are solidly grounded in the Slave Codes and rules of engaging foreign enemies.

We are descendants of enslaved Africans forced to build the United States on stolen land for free. Breathing while Black should not be considered a privilege. It is a God-given right.

Rev. Ruth Harvey, MRSEJ President

Rev. Jason Carson Wilson, MRSEJ Vice President

Rev. Guy S. Johnson, MRSEJ Secretary

Rev. Dr. Sylvia McDonald-Kaufman, MRSEJ Treasurer

Rev. Dr. Luther Holland, Board Member

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