28 May 2020• byRev. Chris Rothbauer
Like many of you, I have been heartbroken over the last few weeks as news poured in about the continued denial of the inherent worth and dignity of Black citizens in America, as, once again, we were confronted with the reality of the murders of Black citizens in America.
First, a video surfaced of the February shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a twenty-three year-old man who was out for a jog near Brunswick, Georgia when three white men, two armed with shotguns and the third filming the entire thing, approached him and started a confrontation that led directly to Arbery’s death. In the aftermath, questions abounded about why the county prosecutor, a family friend of the men who killed Arbery, waited so long to file charges, and African-Americans heard the same excuses and character assassination they’ve become used to:”If he’d only listened, he wouldn’t have been shot!” (as if he was obliged to listen to the orders of random guys on the street!), as well as the sharing of out-of-context surveillance footage they claimed “proved” Arbery was up to no good.
And, in Louisville, Kentucky, Breonna Taylor, a decorated EMT, was shot and killed by police in March who entered her home unannounced to serve a search warrant. It turned out that not only were they in the wrong house, but the person they were looking for had been in custody for hours before Taylor’s death.
As our nation continues to grapple with the Arbery and Taylor cases, a video emerged from Minneapolis of police officers kneeling on an African-American man’s, George Floyd, head as he pleaded with them to let up. “I can’t breathe!” he told them. Minutes later, Floyd was dead. His crime? Using a counterfeit twenty dollar bill. Even the store employee who called the police on Floyd says he saw no signs the man was resisting arrest.
Three tragic, needless deaths. Three people with hopes and dreams for their lives, visions for their futures. It is times like this that call me, as a religious leader, to condemn the system that lead their lives to be devalued, the system of white supremacy. In both cases, the men were seen as expendable for a false and racist sense of order in the world. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, did not deserve to die. Nothing they did or did not do could justify the tactics that were used against them by their killers.
But make no mistake: these three killings are only part of a larger system of systemic injustice daily perpetuated against people of color. From mass incarceration to systemic poverty, the effects of social, economic, and environmental injustice are still all too apparent when one looks in neighborhoods where people of color live.
My Unitarian Universalist faith calls me to believe that all people have inherent worth and dignity, and that our interdependence means what happens to one affects us all. The devaluing of Black life in America must stop, and justice calls us to raise our voices in unison against the needless injustices daily perpetuated against black Americans.
I call on all religious people to raise their voices in demanding the dismantling of this system that destroys people’s lives and shatters families and communities. If you believe in building the Beloved Community where all people are valued, then we must raise up and declare the truth that Black Lives Matter. Only once it stops becoming a rallying cry and becomes an axiomatic truth in the hearts of all Americans can we rest and say that we are on our way to this promised land that is still yet in the distance.
Last modified: 12 January 2022