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Jun
10
2020
Two Viruses

Thought for the Month: Two Viruses Infecting America Today
Like many of you, I am grappling with what is the appropriate action to take individually, and collectively in support of the justifiable unrest we are experiencing as a nation. Don Lemon said on CNN the other day that this country is dealing with two viruses. COVID-19 and Racism-20. I couldn’t agree more with that assessment. We will get through the former just fine if we continue to follow the safety protocols outlined by health professionals. However, it is the latter virus that will be a much tougher dragon to slay. But slay it together we must.
The brutal televised killing of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers all of whom who are thankfully now under arrest and duly charged with murder, should be yet another clarion call to all of God’s people who wish to be on the right side of history, and also to do what is right by their fellow human beings. If you watched the now infamous nearly nine-minute video and weren’t moved to action, then you had better check your pulse. It was despicable, inhumane, and antithetical to what we are supposed to believe this so-called American Experiment is all about. The words “I can’t breathe” should haunt every single one of us. Yet we have unfortunately been here before not long ago with the execution of Eric Garner in New York City, who was also caught on video uttering those same fateful words as his life was being wrongfully snuffed out.

Thought for the Month: Two Viruses Infecting America Today
Like many of you, I am grappling with what is the appropriate action to take individually, and collectively in support of the justifiable unrest we are experiencing as a nation. Don Lemon said on CNN the other day that this country is dealing with two viruses. COVID-19 and Racism-20. I couldn’t agree more with that assessment. We will get through the former just fine if we continue to follow the safety protocols outlined by health professionals. However, it is the latter virus that will be a much tougher dragon to slay. But slay it together we must.
The brutal televised killing of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers all of whom who are thankfully now under arrest and duly charged with murder, should be yet another clarion call to all of God’s people who wish to be on the right side of history, and also to do what is right by their fellow human beings. If you watched the now infamous nearly nine-minute video and weren’t moved to action, then you had better check your pulse. It was despicable, inhumane, and antithetical to what we are supposed to believe this so-called American Experiment is all about. The words “I can’t breathe” should haunt every single one of us. Yet we have unfortunately been here before not long ago with the execution of Eric Garner in New York City, who was also caught on video uttering those same fateful words as his life was being wrongfully snuffed out.
This situation goes much deeper than Mr. Floyd, Mr. Garner, Breonna Taylor, and even Ahmaud Arbery who was hunted down and slain in broad daylight jogging while black. The thousands of U.S. citizens who are out exercising their First Amendment rights to peacefully protest for change, are doing so not just because of the death of yet another unarmed black man at the hands of the police or misguided racists. It is in essence the very predictable next battle in an ongoing war for equality that began in 1619. Pent up frustration increases with each successive battle where nothing seems to change, and the parasitical virus called racism continues to penetrate its host. In this case, the country.
The optimist in me prays that this time, things will be different, and that a vaccine will finally be discovered to eliminate the indelible stain of racism from our society forever. There is certainly something more visceral going on, and reminiscent of the beginning of the movements for Civil Rights and Women’s Rights. Those times, people would not be dissuaded from moving forward towards justice. When I look on television, I see a beautiful tapestry of folks from all stripes, linking arms and aims around the world to scream in the words of Howard Beale from the movie Network, “we are mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore.” “No justice, no peace.” Or to give a shout out to Spike Lee – “Do the Right Thing.” There is a prevailing tone of persistence afoot. Networks live broadcasted a memorial service to George Floyd, during which the Rev. Al Sharpton proclaimed "get your knee off of our necks!" The presence of technology is forcing the current purveyors of racism, especially in high places, to have to spew their venom out in the open. They must own their godless and unclean ways. This is not going away my friends.
Human beings who look like me, are tired of being denied equal justice under the law. And guess what? Multitudes of people who don’t look like me are sick of it as well! I don’t care how many so-called "Constitutionalists" wave that document around and claim to be devoted to it, while opposing policies that would actually help ensure a more perfect union. Or who remain silent after watching on live television, tear gas, night sticks, and flash grenades being deployed against fellow American citizens who are peacefully protesting, to move them out of the way so that a tacky narcissistic photo op can take place. Yes, there a few outliers who are taking advantage of the situation to engage in some bad behavior. Now, I am certainly not an advocate for random acts of violence, but please tell me how many revolutions you know of that have been won without at least a little strategically placed destruction to command the attention of oppressors? If I am not mistaken, some 342 chests of tea were dumped into the water at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston to protest taxation without representation.
It is universally being reported that the overwhelming majority of people protesting are making their voices heard for the right reasons. Peacefully. Don’t get distracted from what the real issue is amidst the episodic looting and destruction! That is not, and never should become, the real story. To paraphrase what Rev. William Barber opined recently, the real story is that ‘American democracy is struggling to breathe, and our democracy is fighting back through the cries of its people who are screaming loudly that we cannot breathe!’ That we refuse to be suffocated any longer.
If we are being honest with one another, can we admit that this country was founded primarily through the exploitation of others who didn’t look like the people on the Mayflower? Land was stolen, indigenous people set on a “trail of tears”, innocents were killed, families sold and separated, and human beings enslaved to work for lazy bastards that were more eager to make bigger profits rather than embrace humanity and equality. We certainly should recognize the latter of the aforementioned evils in today’s world. Some of those folks then, and even now, masquerade(d) as Christians? Heaven forbid!
Dealing with, or dare I say dominating, this virus of racism is all about embracing humanity and equality. There is no room for the rancid and intentional practices of division that have infected our nation lately in an unprecedented way. We have to treat this virus of racism aggressively, or I fear that we will be marching as a country, down an inevitable path towards a new Civil War between the haves and have-nots.
Another reason for the frustration of our fellow citizens demonstrating in the streets today is that too many individuals in power continue to say “we hear you” but then take no action, and simply wait for the next news cycle to take over, rather than uplift the fortunes of our fellow brothers and sisters. Yes, I am fired up! Wonder what has me so inspired to speak out? An Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brother sent me this link to an impassioned speech by Mike McClure Jr. during a peaceful protest in Birmingham, Alabama. It is well worth the roughly 6 minutes of your time to watch:
“We must Subpoena the conscience of America.” https://www.facebook.com/mikemcclurejr/videos/3035676036486368/
I’ll bet the powers that be wish they had taken Colin Kaepernick’s courageous act of peaceful protest to heart when he and other NFL players first ironically took a knee to speak out against the very thing people are rallying in streets about all over the world today – equal justice under the law for all. Imagine if this valid demand was actually addressed. Had that happened, rather than demonizing him and others as “sons of bitches” for having the temerity to speak up, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others might likely be alive today, and we could now be saving more lives from that other viral challenge - COVID-19.
You want to do something about this? Develop a local plan, and work that plan, for when the demonstrations begin to dissipate. This battle is only the beginning of a new “war to end all wars”. If we can eradicate the scourge of the virus called racism, we can then defeat inequality across health, education, wealth, equal pay, and any other societal issues that always seem to end in people of color getting the short end of the stick. If you scratch the surface of any of those areas, you will find systemic racism festering at the core, stealing our basic humanity as it tightens its death grip on its host.
I am heartened by the fact that so many young people have been mobilized and motivated to fight against this virus of racism. No significant change has ever taken place in this country without young people playing a pivotal role. President Obama said as much when he outlined a plan for specific actions at not just the federal level, but perhaps more importantly, the state and local levels where the policies that most affect you and I are crafted. Commit therefore to first taking actions to achieve social justice right where you live.
Continue to speak out and make your righteous indignation heard. Vote. Not just at the national level, but up and down the ballot in favor of those people who will go beyond platitudes and empty political promises, and actually do something to affect real change. Support leaders with the courage to bring about the promise of universal fairness that has been so elusive to far too many in this country. We must place country and humanity over political affiliation and fealty to anachronistic babble.
Above all, young people, you must also be patient. Yes, be unflinchingly persistent in making this country live up to perhaps its most recognizable promise – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” You must also be patient to win this war. Lasting change will take time. Just as my generation is working for our kids and grandchildren, the baton is being passed onto you to win the race. As Dr. King once admonished us, we must be willing to fight the good fight even if we ourselves don’t ultimately get to embrace the benefits. Moses wasn’t allowed to cross over the Jordan. That was tasked by the Lord to Joshua. Simply stated, this is a marathon that we will win. But in due time. And you have to see the big picture and realize that you might not be the ultimate beneficiary of the blood, sweat, and tears required to make a difference so that "one day, we as a people, will get to the promised land!"
The real work will happen behind the scenes and out of the glare of camera lights. So register folks to vote. Run for office to ensure all voices are being heard. Protest. Lastly, vote out of office those people who don’t embrace the essence of these words from John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Are you up for the challenge?
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