MOMENT OR MOVEMENT

The moments are indelibly seared into our collective consciousness.  Unarmed, handcuffed, and pinned to the ground by the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, George Floyd cries and pleads for his mother as his life is snuffed out.  Running away from an Atlanta cop after a scuffle in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, Rayshard Brooks stumbles and falls to the ground after being fatally shot in the back by the cop.  It is difficult to watch the videos that depict Floyd’s descent into death and the collapse of Brooks and not recoil in revulsion.

 

In the weeks following the horrendous deaths of Floyd, Brooks, and other African Americans before them at the hands of police officers, protests and demonstrations took place in the United States and around the world.  Whether organic or organized, the protests were grounded in the belief that the deaths of these African Americans at the hands of law enforcement personnel were unjustifiable.  The theme of the protests was simple. “Black Lives Matter.”

 

It appears that the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks represent a seminal moment in our nation’s history.  Something about the way each man died touched a raw nerve in people, stoking reaction in blacks and whites, and in old and young alike.  Condemnation of the actions of the police officers responsible for the deaths was generally swift and decisive, and came from small organizations and large institutions.  Overwhelmingly white crowds took to the streets with signs screaming “Black Lives Matter.”  A momentous moment unfolded.  The spring of 2020 was a hinge moment, a molten moment, in the tortious history of race relations in the United States.

 

What may be the message of the watershed moment, and, more importantly, will the moment morph into a movement?  The message of the moment is that people are fed up with the lack of justice and the seemingly blatant disregard for black life in this country.  The message of the moment is that law enforcement must be held accountable, and that thoughtful and long-term change are needed in how communities of color are served and protected by police.  The message of the moment is that racism must stop, and that sustainable change must be ushered in. 

 

People are praying that this moment is one of recalibration and reset, that a fundamental shift in how people of color are viewed and treated in this country will take place.  People are crying out for change.  They want to maximize the moment.  They want the minute to become a mile, indeed a marathon, of hope and institutional, systemic change. 

 

Difficult conversations about race are now taking place, and that is to applauded.  For far too long race has been a taboo subject, the proverbial elephant in the room that is rarely acknowledged but often lurking and looming in the shadows.  Considered America’s “birth defect” by some, race continues to profoundly impact life in this country and around the world.

 

Only time will tell if the loud protests and demonstrations we witnessed in the immediate aftermath of the slayings of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and others will result in a sustained, permanent shift in how the broader society thinks of and treats people of color or a temporary phenomenon spawned by the heat of the moment.  The answer as to whether the moment will become a movement that lasts and brings about tangible, discernable, and measurable change lies within each of us.  You get to decide; and I get to decide.  And we must be willing to invest our energies and expend our resources to that end.

 

Black Lives Matter, Too!

Clifford Jones

Pastor/President

 

 

 


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