Why for white people only? Because it’s time for me to listen. Because black commentators are saying things like:
You’ve had the microphone for 300 years. It’s time for you to stop talking and listen.
We are tired of explaining it to you.
You can’t understand what it’s like to be black in America, or how much you benefit from white privilege.
So I’m listening. I believe I’ve been listening for about 4 decades.
I’m grieved over the brutal and senseless killing of George Floyd. Over the past several days I’ve been wrestling with the question of how to be an ally with the black community. But I get the sense that this is not the right time to reach out and have a dialogue about race relations with people of color.
So I figured I could write a post to white people.
In the wake of the George Floyd incident I think I see white America dividing even further along ideological lines. This comes on the heels of America dividing bitterly and politically over the Covid-19 pandemic – something which I had thought might bring people together. This is tragic to me because I think both sides have important points to make.
It’s almost always the case. There is almost always something true, good, and important about both perspectives of any passionate political divide.
A refusal to accept this is why so many people suck at conflict resolution in relationships.
I think it is worth allowing ourselves to understand – truly understand – an opposing point of view. Doing so doesn’t mean you have to agree.
In my next 3 posts I’m going to present 3 different emotional and divisive questions around the issue of racism in America. I’ll attempt to fairly present two opposing sides in answer to each question. See if you are able to listen, understand, and agree with them both. If you can’t, I’d like to hear why in the comment section.
Question #1: Who was George Floyd?
Before going any further I hope we can all agree that this question does not matter in the face of what happened to Mr. Floyd. The point of the peaceful protests after Mr. Floyd’s murder is that Americans must not allow law enforcement to be handled in the way Derek Chauvin handled it in the case of Mr. Floyd.
Having said that, a divide has been widening due in part to a video message by Candace Owens, a black conservative commentator, activist, and founder of the Blexit movement. The video came out while the protests and rioting following Floyd’s death were in full swing. It is entitled, I Do Not Support George Floyd. Owens is on fire in the 18 minute video, powerfully articulating a message to black America.
She makes several points, but the thrust of her message is to assert that the black community is the only one that “caters to the bottom denominator of our society…it has become fashionable for us to turn criminals into heroes overnight”. She goes on to point out Mr. Floyd’s criminal record and history of incarceration, facts which I hadn’t heard in any media accounts that I saw, whether liberal or conservative. She declares that George Floyd was not an amazing person…not a hero…not a martyr, but a criminal.
She goes on to discuss numbers, noting that a total of 9 unarmed blacks men were killed by police last year, and states that it is not the police who are killing off black men – it is other black men. She makes an appeal for personal responsibility, saying of the black community, “Our biggest problem is us…we don’t DO personal responsibility in our community – we blame white people.” She ends with examples of remarkable black people like Condoleeza Rice, Larry Elder, and Ben Carson, noting that they are generally not held in high esteem by blacks.
Underneath this and other of Owens’s videos lies her belief that the Democratic “plantation” uses black people and takes their vote for granted, keeping them dependent on the party. At the same time, the Democratic party worsens the plight of black America by encouraging and reinforcing a “victimhood” narrative that keeps black America looking to the government for solutions. She asserts that the BLM movement is a shining example of this by promoting the idea that racism in America is what’s keeping black people down.
A lot of this resonates with white conservatives as conservatism tends to emphasize personal responsibility and content of character.
On the other hand…
But there is more to George Floyd than this. I believe it is wrong to call Mr. Floyd a criminal and leave it at that. I read an article from Christianity Today (CT) titled, George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston. It tells a different story, describing Floyd as a “person of peace”.
Pastors and black ministry partners who knew Mr. Floyd say he “spoke of breaking the cycle of violence he saw among young people and used his influence to bring outside ministries to the area to do discipleship and outreach, particularly in the Cuney Homes housing project,..”
Christian hip-hop artist, Corey Paul Davis, quotes Floyd as saying, “I love what you’re doing. The neighborhood need it, the community need it, and if y’all about God’s business, then that’s my business…” After getting out of prison in 2014, Floyd moved from Houston to Minneapolis for a fresh start under a Christian work program, according to the CT story.
But autopsies report that George Floyd had fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cannabinoids in his system, when he died. He appears to have been high upon his arrest. So what’s the truth? What about the “fresh start”?
I don’t see a contradiction between the 2 stories because this looks sadly familiar to me. I have several friends who are believers in Jesus, but who also struggle with addictions. Several of Mr. Floyd’s earlier arrests and prison stints were drug related. If he was a recovering addict, then the CT story makes perfect sense to me. I have no inside knowledge of George Floyd, but it looks to me like he was a guy trying to get his life together and do the right thing, but who was relapsing at the time of his arrest. This makes his death all the more tragic.
It also strikes me as relevant that Mr. Floyd’s family was pleading for people to stop the rioting during the worst of the unrest.
I believe that what black America needs to see from white America in this moment is compassion, empathy, and prayer. Black America does not need a bunch of white Christians posting the Candace Owens video all over social media right now. It looks pretty cold to make that your statement as a white person right now, even if it is true. Owens’s video was a message to the black community, not to you. She has a platform from which to speak hard truth because she is part of that community.
Within the space of just a few weeks the black community has suffered the violent and unjust killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. So, if you’re a white conservative, you know that “content of character” thing that conservatives believe in? Now would be a good time to put that into practice toward your fellow human beings who are hurting and angry.
— Scott Freeman, 6/2020