On Monday, May 25th in Minneapolis, George Floyd, an African-American man, died after Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds; 2 minutes and 53 seconds of which occurred after Floyd became unresponsive. Other officers also held George Floyd down. Floyd pleaded with the officers, telling them he could not breathe and asking them not to kill him. George Floyd’s death is the latest in a number of deaths of African American persons in police custody. Throughout the United States, including here in Des Moines, demonstrations have been held. People have gathered in the streets asking for change, calling on our justice system to change its practices, and calling us all to consider how we participate in systems of racism that favors people of white heritage over persons of color. In some cases, tempers have flared and violence has resulted. Persons seeking to create havoc have damaged property. If you have watched the news, you are aware of all of this.
Behind all this is the problem of racism in our country. We have a long history of judging one another based on the color of our skin. Not all police officers are like the police officers who killed George Floyd. Not all white people are like the white people who killed George Floyd, but they represent us all until we stand for justice and change.
On Tuesday Justice Ben Emunah contacted me. Justice is a member of our church. He serves on the Worship Committee. You may have met him when he worked at the State Fair Stand.
Justice shared the video of Floyd’s death with me. And Justice asked to bring this conversation up with the church. If we were meeting in person today, we would be talking about this. My sermon today was recorded earlier in the week before I knew about this incident. My sermon is about understanding. Was I giving it in person today, I would talk about the death of George Floyd.
Justice wrote about how all this feels to him. His words appear below. Read his words, hear his voice. Pray. And then as persons who follow Christ, do what you can do to bring about change.
There is something wrong when parents of black children fear when they walk out the door. It is sad when I have to tell my three boys, who are not thugs as our president likes to tweet, but college kids who just want to be young. I tell them not to wear a hoody, keep it down, when police pull you over do not move, Put your hands up right away, stay still-this from me thinking it might save their life.
What should I tell my boys now? What should I tell them when they see men that look like them killed in the streets by the same people who are supposed to protect us? What should we tell them when they see a police officer have their knee in the neck of a black man for 8 minutes while not resisting when a black man goes for a jog and gets shot down by vigilantes when a young boy goes and buys tea and skittles gets shot by a scared vigilante (this could be one of our boys), when a child playing cops and robbers gets shot by a cop, when having car trouble on the side of the road leads to suspension and death.
I’m glad many of you will never have those fears for your children or even the understanding to grasp what I’m saying. It’s a sad truth, people are mad, people are tired of the killing, people are tired of others being afraid or suspicious just because of the color of their skin. Fourteen years ago my son who was 5 and I were volunteering in mowing the church’s lawn he was So excited. We were done and sat inside the SUV, both sweaty and dirty. An elderly couple from the church pulled up next to us and the driver got out and the lady with him started staring at me and pulled the man’s shirt and they moved to a different side of the parking lot and parked. My 5 year old said, “daddy why did they move”. I didn’t know what to tell him. Something is wrong with this and here we are 14 years later.
Here is a poem that I wrote as well.
“Justice” Not For A Selected Color
Born just a stone’s throw from the castle that housed slaves with a church on top of the dungeons. I have never experienced the harsh reality of being black until I lived in the United States of America.
Black people had a land of their own but were forced to leave it all behind only to become a victim to the American law enforcement.
As he whispered “I can’t breathe” his voice died down at the end. As the sun rises from New York and sets in California, the Blackman is afraid to be the next victim of police crimes. When every race is asleep, in the middle of the night, dreaming about Romeo and Juliet, the Blackman is dreaming about the next Blackman who will fall victim to police crimes.
Black people are mentally exhausted. A White man stands up in an interview and says he is applying for the job because he wants to be able to beat people legally is an example of today’s enforcement. Police crimes have always been part of American culture. The only thing different today is that technology has caught up to them, they cannot hide their crimes. As he screamed “I can’t breathe “, the wrinkles on his face became a perfect trace for his tears while he died. Don’t wait until police crimes reach your door before you realize you are the next victim. Peaceful black protesters get tear-gassed, while white men carrying AK47’s get police escorts. Justice should not be for only a selected color.
Lord, search our hearts…
Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Ave.
West Des Moines, IA 50265