“Still Holding Our Breath”

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The death of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin was a tragic and traumatic experience for Americans in general and African Americans specifically. It graphically and virally positioned front and center the violent and cruel underbelly of the beast that American society can be. Is America “Mom, Apple Pie, and the land of the free?” Absolutely it is . . . Until it isn’t. It’s that “isn’t” part that constantly stokes the soul trauma and ancestral stress response which has become a gaping, leaking, gangrenous, and throbbing sore on the group psyche of black folks of the diaspora in this “land of free.”

I don’t personally know George Floyd but I’ve seen him almost every day of my life staring back at me when I brush my teeth.I’ve never personally met Derek Chauvin but I’ve seen him in my rearview mirror several times silhouetted by a red and blue blinking glow or heard him asking me if that’s weed he smells on me even though I’ve never dragged a blunt a day in my life or clutching my wrist seeking to handcuff me a half a block from the church or . . .

The Derek Chauvin conviction on all three counts has not changed those deep psychological misgivings and pains. Not for me. Not for the “African American” community. Not at all. It hasn’t erased the deep feelings of betrayal and dishonor of years of broken promises, “wink-wink” “empowerments”, or flat out genocidal violence and cultural-familial erasure.

There’s a reason that the response to this “victory” for “social justice” has been so muted. There’s no cinematic Wiz style “Can you feel a brand new day!” song and dance celebration on the streets Minneapolis or Compton or Harlem or Oak Cliff or Bed Stuy or Oakland or South Central or . . .

Many of us are still holding our breath like Whitney in waiting to exhale. Many of us still can’t breathe. For me it goes back to the mid 70’s and seeing the level of impotence and rage in the eyes of my dangerously powerful Father as he was unable to protect me from a white man and his family who bumped me with their horse or the gang of white guys who chased me down and beat me for walking in their neighborhood. I could run home and tell him but he knew he’d get shot chasing them down and that the local police would only give a “wink-wink” we’ll look into it.

Or maybe it goes back to the Rodney King trial. “We” saw America put itself on trial for the brutalization of a black man. We thought, “Finally! Now people can SEE that we’re not crazy! That this really does happen!” But nope. Obviously we couldn’t believe our eyes. Even when it’s caught on film.

Social justice is a common term used today. Many will say this trial’s outcome is the goal of social justice. That may well be. But I believe Scripture speaks to this idea of justice in a broader sense. Scripture calls for us to look back at the Creator as our source — The Creator of George Floyd and Derek Chauvin and every single human to walk on this planet. Biblical justice starts by seeing people as created in the image of God and therefor worthy of purposeful existence and freedom from violent oppression.

One day there will be perfect justice, carried out by a perfectly holy and just God in a place where righteousness rules. In the meantime, evil and sin are systemically pervasive throughout America and the rest of this world. Young women and girls are sold into sexually abused bondage and trafficked. Racists and bigots and supremacists are using privilege and power to dominate and demean and destroy. People locked out of the benefits of the system, locked into servitude to the system, and locked up for opposing the system are screaming their frustration and pain in the only language they know how . . . sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly.

Therefore I’m satisfied with this verdict but not joyful. I am mourning the senseless death of a man accused of passing a bad 20-dollar bill. I am mourning two sets of children and families who will be without because of the senselessness of those 9 minutes. I am mourning those who are yet waiting for some semblance of justice, many of which will never get it.

I’m not thirsty for some type teary eyed mea culpa from anyone. I just wanna be able to call the police on criminals and not worry that when they show up at my door they’ll think I’m the criminal. I just wanna not feel a fearful need to check on my son every time another black man is killed by law enforcement. I’m tired of hoping he remembered how to interact with policemen or if sending him off to “that white school” has made him forget that the way his white friends loudly demand their rights at a traffic stop will get him killed. I just wanna breath.

And I can’t yet.

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause,” (Isaiah 1:17).

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