by Sister Mary Beth Moore
The tragic death of George Floyd fills us with grief and pain. As we struggle to bring this event to prayer, words fail. And yet, we are called to respond, for we are responsible — “able to respond.”
Let us face some truths clearly:
George Floyd was murdered. The misguided, wretched perpetrator took George Floyd’s life on purpose. The action, seen by millions, provoked the most serious demonstrations since the death of Martin Luther King in 1968. Let us reflect deeply on the energies of grief, rage and pain coursing through communities in scores of U.S. cities and even beyond the US.
These demonstrations are not just understandable, but justified. To take the life of a human being is a terrible thing. But the reaction we are seeing is the culmination of years, decades, and centuries of loss of life of African Americans with little or no consequences to the perpetrators. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbury, Travon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Alatiana Jefferson—these are just some of those who made the news. Absent are hundreds who suffered and died unnoticed, and left a trail of grief, rage and pain for all who loved them.
We affirm that the vast majority of protesters have acted non-violently. These multitudes share our rejection of violence and destruction, which touches many communities of color far more directly than it touches us. We respect the police who are, after all, essential workers. The police are not the enemy. Those in authority who ignore, or even urge violence are the true culprits.
George Floyd’s death is framed in the moment of pandemic. The virus has unmasked the structural inequality suffered by people of color and its cascade of misery: underlying conditions developed through lack of health care, inability to afford to care, far greater susceptibility to COVID-19, greater number of deaths, and hospitals in poor neighbourhoods with far fewer resources.
We are not innocent of racism. We need not negate the investments in education, social work, healthcare and advocacy that we Sisters have engaged in for the good of vulnerable people, among them African Americans. And yet, who of us has not turned away from the gaping wound of racism? The festering wound and the grotesque structure are repellent. It challenges our identity as compassionate persons. Who of us is exempted from asking: to what extent have I been content to minimize, turn away, or deny racism in myself, and in the country, I love?
How can we respond? What can we do? As we strive to live this moment in time fully, we ask forgiveness. Forgiveness must include a firm purpose of amendment. It is never too late for God. As we approach Chapter, is it time to name racism as a reality we must address–not just as another issue on a list, but as a sin that sullies all our dreams of interconnectedness with each other, with Earth, with the God of Life?