After Chauvin verdict, will US seriously address racism?

Leo S. Thorne 

April 23, 2021

I can exhale – at least for a moment.

I hope that the guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd becomes an inflection point to at least begin moving this country to seriously address a systemic problem that has haunted the United States since its founding.

The problem of racism runs very deep within the soul of America, and it must be attended to if this country is to live up to its high ideal of the equality of all people.

If we recall, the trajectory of messaging from the Minneapolis police department began on May 25, 2020, with the statement that police had interrupted a crime of forgery by a suspect who refused to comply with police action, and the suspect died in a medical crisis.

The verdict is due to the presence and humanitarian concern of passers-by who pulled out their cell phone cameras, a jury that was presented with incontrovertible evidence, the family of George Floyd who prayerfully believed that justice would prevail, and a host of other strategic elements that fell into place.

Without these factors, the final statement of guilty would probably have been again denied in a system that allows police to operate almost with impunity against the Black community, particularly Black men. 

We would have had another police officer and the blue wall of silence asking us to doubt what our eyes saw.

As a Black man in America, I can breathe – at least for now. But who knows when my turn would come to get the knee on my neck? 

Over the past few months, I have heard some of my Black brothers, some of whom I would have never suspected of holding in their own breath when they left their homes, confess that they, too, exist on a prayer while outdoors. 

This group includes clergymen, university professors, medical doctors, salesmen, everyday citizens and teenage boys, to name a few.

The problem of racism runs very deep within the soul of America, and it must be attended to if this country is to live up to its high ideal of the equality of all people.

I am not sure that America really comprehends – or wants to comprehend, for that matter – the toll that this racial environment is taking on Black men and their families.

There is economic cost, psychological cost, medical cost, emotional cost, spiritual cost and deeply personal cost, among others.

The larger cost is that America is depriving itself of the enormous contribution that Black men and women, and all people of color, can contribute to making this country so much more than what it already is. 

Here is a fitting and timely reminder from Abraham Lincoln: “I hate [indifference to slavery] because of the monstrous injustice of slavery. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its influence in the world – enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites …” 

And here’s the thing that we all know: God has been more than good to this land.

Many of us are very proud to be called Americans. There is no other country in the world like it, from sea to shining sea. 

Any wrong, however, is ultimately a sin against God; it stifles our capacity to be thankful. 

As such, America’s sin goes beyond racism to ingratitude. We are really not a thankful people – to God and for one another. 

I guess the defense in the Derek Chauvin trial understood that if they could get people to doubt what they see and what they feel, then they can doubt truth itself. If we can’t see and we can’t feel, then truth does not matter.

Actually, America is currently bordering on embracing this horrible reality at the peril of throwing away its most sacred gift – its self-chosen gift of freedom itself. 

I think I heard somewhere that there is none so blind as the one who chooses not to see but to pass on the other side of the street. Ingratitude is a funny thing. 

These are my first thoughts after the reading of the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial, a Black man’s life that mattered.

Now retired, Leo S. Thorne served previously as Associate General Secretary for Mission Resource Development, American Baptist Churches USA until 2016. Used by permission of Good Faith Media.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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