The United States of America has lived for 400 years with two great shames: the genocide and land theft of indigenous people and the enslavement of black people. Racism has endured. There have been attempts over the centuries to right these wrongs, but none has been systemic.
Now it seems that might be changing. In Minneapolis on May 25, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, yet another black man, George Floyd, was killed by yet another white police officer. And all over the U.S. and across the world, people are going out into the streets and shouting, “NO MORE!”
Much of the media attention focuses on the brutality of some police forces against peaceful protestors. But that is not the only story.
In Flint, Michigan, Sheriff Chris Swanson joined protesters by putting down his gun and declaring, “I want to make this a parade, not a protest.”
At an Atlanta park a peaceful protest became violent when night fell and police moved in and started firing teargas. One protestor, Farees Kaleemah, went directly to police Lieutenant Kevin Knapp and extended an invitation. “Give us 10 minutes of walking with us,” Kaleemah says to Knapp in a widely shared video. “Show us that you’re with me, and they’ll go home peacefully. I promise you.” And that’s what happened. The police walked calmly amidst the protestors.
In Coral Gables, Florida and New York City, police officers took a knee in solidarity with the crowd.
Demands for racial equality in the U.S. and in their own countries have sprung up across the world in England, France, Germany, New Zealand, and Iran.
Perhaps we can dare to believe that the truly radical joy of racial equality will emerge from this tragedy in the midst of the hard times of the coronavirus and racism.