Lynching Justice in America
A Statement from the National Officers of the United Church of Christ
A man was lynched by police in Minneapolis this week.
George Floyd was lynched on the streets of Minneapolis, Minn., with the knee of an officer who needed no noose. As comrades looked on, reminiscent of the public lynchings of the past, George Floyd pleaded for breath for over 5 minutes as the callous, vigilante actions of four officers hooded in blue ignored his plea.
The unrestrained white rage that stalked Colin Kaepernick “taking a knee” on AstroTurf to protest violence against black bodies escapes this country’s watchful gaze as an authorized officer “takes a knee” on the throat of a black man pinned to the asphalt.
Is this how white supremacy prays?
A man was lynched by vigilantes in Brunswick, Ga., on Feb. 23 this year.
Ahmaud Arbery’s life was choked from his body by bullets plowed through his chest, fired from the gun of white vigilantes self-deputized to guard white fragility from the threat of a black man free enough to run where he chooses, as comrades looked on.
No charges were filed initially and we might never have known, except such violence is never fully satiated without public display. The taping of their triumph sealed their fate. Is this how white supremacy celebrates?
A woman was lynched by police in Louisville, Ky., on March 13 this year.
Breonna Taylor’s sleep was interrupted by death as officers broke into her home unannounced and riddled her body with 8 bullets in search of a black man who did not live there and was already caged. Breonna was an EMT, risking her life daily for the well-being of others. Her profession placed her at high risk for COVID-19. Her black body placed her at higher risk for the death she endured. Breonna’s work was essential. Her life was not.
White supremacy is not simply an ideology, it is an evil. It is not simply born of ignorance but also of intention.
This religion of white supremacy is so deeply seeded in the blood- drenched soil of our country that white people will do anything to protect its fragile roots.
Black bodies are lynched by police in America so that white supremacy can breathe, white fragility can rage, and white entitlement can pretend not to see.
A black man was almost lynched in Central Park this week.
Amy Cooper intended to steal his breath. She knew the gravity of a white woman’s plea to be saved from the throes of a Black man in America. Her words were deliberately weaponized with fragility. White women’s tears are their own eyewitness. She knew exactly what she was doing, so much so that she warned the victim she was armed with whiteness and would weaponize it if he did not submit to her demands.
This is what “Stand Your Ground” looks like for those who believe they actually own the ground.
Murder by law enforcement is the insidious mutation of vigilante lynchings. Both public executions are violations of the 4th and 14th amendments — violations too often upheld by the highest court in this land. But state-sanctioned murder carries the endorsement of our judicial system for America to be at war with itself. The authority to savagely murder black people and mutilate their bodies in public displays suggests the desire to stop a power beyond one's ability to kill. How many bullets does it take to stop a black body? How long must a choke hold last to make the weak feel powerful when confronted with a resilience that cannot be comprehended?
Too often images flood our screens of whiteness raging out of control. Picnics and postcards with lynched bodies on display have been replaced by live-streams and private videos with the murdered on display. We can no longer suffer the luxury of looking away. We must speak truth with power for the salvation of us all.
Black people were lynched in America yesterday, and all the yesterdays before.
Lynched by vigilantes who Stand Their Ground.
Lynched by religious zealots that have white-washed God.
Lynched by the silence of white liberals.
Lynched by those sworn to serve and protect.
As we enter this season of Pentecost we are reminded that the breath of God still blows where she wills, the fire of God’s righteousness still burns within those who believe, the power of God still emboldens us to tear down every stronghold, and the Will of God still reigns supreme.
In the strength of that power, we must be compelled to:
In Minneapolis, in Brunswick, in Louisville, in New York, in Ferguson, in Cleveland, in Baltimore, in Chicago, and in every city across the land. Somehow we must garner the strength to call out this evil. We must bolster the courage to face this head on and call it by name. Only when we choose to face the evil can we cast it from our collective being. This is the work of the entire church.
We are called to uproot white supremacy in all of its forms. Whiteness must no longer be our god.
Justice was lynched in America yesterday.
But thanks be to God, Justice refuses to die.
The National Officers of the United Church of Christ
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