By John Mark Boes
I wish all those Black and Brown bodies would not have been destroyed by slavery, Jim Crow, white nationalism or police brutality. I wish I knew why people are so scared by those who are Black and Brown. I wish I could help every person in the world understand why racism is both individual and systemic. I wish Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and all the others who have been killed were still able to wake up every morning. I wish I lived in a world that valued every person for their humanity.
Alas, my wishes are even more indicative of my privilege than I could have ever thought. Black and Brown bodies are continually destroyed. People fear Black and Brown bodies. Racism is both individual and systemic. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and all the others who have been killed will not wake up in the morning ever again. I live in a world that does not value every person for their humanity.
The recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are indicative of a problem this country has had since its inception. We have constantly and continually devalued Black and Brown lives as a way of furthering racist power structures. We have enslaved, ridiculed, lynched, segregated and discriminated our way to a society that seems so broken—as broken as the bodies of Taylor, Arbery and Floyd.
In the 1960s, James Cone states in A Black Theology of Liberation, “while churches are debating whether a whale swallowed Jonah, the state is enacting inhuman laws against the oppressed.” His statement rings even more true now, some 50 years later. The Holy Spirit yearns for justice,for a society that stops marginalizing the oppressed. Our mission as God’s people should be to bring about justice, justice that does not let folks like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd be killed.
Now, protests have escalated in Minneapolis, Louisville and other cities at the injustice that appears so prevalent in our country. While I do not like looting, it is truly remarkable that, as a society, we seem to be more concerned with looting than with the destruction of Black and Brown bodies at the hands of white supremacist power structures. In fact, it would appear that the only time we even notice Black and Brown folks protesting is when we criticize them for how they protest. The viral anger at Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling before NFL games and people telling LeBron James to “shut up and dribble,” are evidence of that. Perhaps these protestors should show up at their state capitals armed with assault weaponry and long guns. Maybe then we would pay attention to their cause.
A colleague whose opinion I value deeply reminded me recently that we all need prayer. Moreover, this colleague stated, “I need prayer, y’all.” And, this colleague is right on a deeper level. We need prayer. We need to seek the guidance of our God who calls us to justice and righteousness. We need to follow the example of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who reminds us of the call to protect the “least of these.”
But, after we pray, we need to act. We must stand with protesters who are simply saying that Black lives matter and should not be destroyed. We must take actions that are anti-racist. We must advocate for policies at the local, state and federal levels that protect the marginalized and the oppressed. This cannot wait because another Black or Brown body destroyed is an indictment on the fabric, the very soul of our society. So, join me in praying. Let us pray without ceasing. And then, let us act. Let us turn our righteous, holy anger into Gospel hope and love. Let us boldly proclaim that Black lives matter more than white supremacy, and the contest is not even close.
John Mark Boes serves as the Partnerships and Advocacy Specialist for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.