I asked my good friend Alvin Hunter, the longtime pastor of Lonoke Baptist Church in Hope, to speak to the current events in our country. His words are timely and needed. We would do well to read them closely and heed them. Thank you, Bro. Hunter, for your wisdom and your ministry. The end goal we share does not involve protests and marches but unity and equality. May it be so in our lifetimes. -Daniel
Considering recent events in Minnesota, there is a pressing need for me to write to the precipitating issues. The death of George Floyd has aroused the conscience of people around the world through protesting. The protests are taking place in more than 30 cities in our nation (USA). This is on a scale we have never seen before. George Floyd’s death is causing people of all ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds to join in on the struggle black people have had for more than 400 years. These massive efforts are causing people of privilege to ask themselves, “What is it all about, and why this man”?
The truth of the matter is, George Floyd is only a symbol of the civil rights violations perpetrated against black people on a regular basis. He has become a symbol because the violation was so obvious and recorded! The recording of George Floyd’s death showed that a police officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds restricting his air passage. He then died on camera while observers, standing by, were warning the officers of his near death. The officers ignored these warning, even after he had passed out during the last three minutes of his life. This violation has raised the consciousness and the awareness of many white people who have never considered that the issues are so severe and real.
This event represents where we are socially and begs the questions of 1) how did we get here, and 2) where do we go from here? The black ethnicity has had many twists and turns in our history. It started with slavery being a time of cruelty to our black ancestors; in this era our fore parents were not considered to be human. After slavery was segregation. The greatest issue of segregation was the Jim Crow laws and the economic, political, and social suppression of black people. Unspeakable cruelty was perpetrated during this era, such as lynchings, crowd control by using the fire departments with their water hoses, and the police with beatings and their dogs injuring and killing a countless number of people. We went from segregation to integration with containment. During this time, we were integrated in federal and state public facilities and discriminated against at the local levels for job opportunities and social integration. In other words, integration without equality! These times created or sustained ethnic barriers in many cases, and stereotypes over these eras have emerged. It is a mistake to blame everyone in an ethnic group for the bad behavior of a few people associated by color only, whether it is black, white, or blue.
As a 63-year-old black man, I have memories of a time before integration. I personally witnessed, as a pre-teen: the signs in certain areas reading “Whites Only,” being the first in line and the last to be waited on in stores or being followed and watched while shopping, and white flight in the Okolona school district after integration was implemented. These were terrible times in our history. However, as Christians, we are taught by scripture in Ephesians 4:31-32 to put away such things as “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking with all malice.” It goes on to tell us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
So, in conclusion, where do we go from here? It is my sincere hope that black people will let go of any malice or anger they may have because of ancestral history, and white people will see the need to speak up against the injustice of black people or any person where ever it is seen. In my opinion, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best in his letter from the Birmingham jail in 1963, “we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue.”
Finally, it is summed up in two words, justice and equality. Scripturally, our Lord said in Amos 5:24 “But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” None of us can stand idly by while clearly watching suppression and injustice happen.