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A Viatorian Response to George Floyd’s Death

June 1, 2020

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That is a phrase that I remember from my earliest memories.  It was driven into us as children. When I look at today’s world, that simple phrase seems to have vanished from the collective memory of our nation.

The events of the past week in Minnesota have caused me to pause and reflect on how we as a nation have fallen far from the goals established when this nation was founded. We were intended to be a nation founded upon the rule of law, yet, if we look at our recent history, we must ask whose law. Currently, there seems to be two sets of laws.  One law for the privileged sector of society and another for the less privileged sector.

The image of a black man, George Floyd, pinned to the street by four police officers and with an officer’s knee on his neck is an image that is etched into my brain.  At least, on the short film clip carried on the news, I heard the victim say at least four times, “I can’t breathe.” Obviously, at this point, he was not resisting. Yet, for an extended period, this continued. The man died.

The mayor of Minneapolis watched the video and immediately fired the four police officers. He was right in doing so. Those entrusted with protecting us cannot be exempt from nor ignore the laws they swore to enforce. Those who enforce the law are not above the law.

My reading of the news informs me that the officer who had his knee on the victim’s neck had a lengthy history of abuse and brutality. He has since been brought up on charges for the death of the Mr. Floyd.

Sadly, protests and riots followed this incident. I fully understand. I don’t think that the riots were a direct result of the death of this single man, but a culmination of the frustration experienced by the African-American community over a pattern in the entire nation that seems to have developed regarding the police-African American relationship. Even in the white community, people express anger because something must change. This is not right nor does it reflect who we are as a nation.

In the white community, we tend to see the police as our protectors. In the African American community, the police tend to be viewed as a threat. We, as a nation, must ask why.

While I am not condoning the riots and destruction of property, I can certainly understand that when you have no recourse, you act out. When no one seems to care, you act out. When most of the nation remains silent in the face of this blatant abuse, you act out.

Fr. Mark Francis is the 7th president of CTU

If the person being arrested in this case was white, I feel sure that the outcome would have been different. That is not only sad. It is un-American.

We not only need to pray for the victims of injustice, we need to use our voices and our votes to speak for those whose voices are not being heard.

Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, sent out a letter from Catholic Theological Union marking today, June 1 as a Day of Mourning and Lament for those who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic. He points out the disproportionate number of deaths in the African American  and Hispanic communities. He challenges each of us to reflect on the disparity that still exists in our country. I invite you to read it, reflect on it and pray for an end to the blatant racism and discrimination that exists in our country. We as Christians must do everything in our power to end this travesty.