A Reflection on the Death of George Floyd

A Reflection on the Death of George Floyd

A Letter from Fr Aidan-Peter, CJ

I have been asked to speak to our younger members who have great concerns, as do we all, about the horrific death of Mr George Floyd and the recent troubles in our cities. I have decided to share it openly with all parishioners who are concerned.

Pope St Paul VI, on the World Day for Peace in 1972, put it very simply, “If you want peace, work for justice”. This is as true today as it was then if not even more so. We seem incapable of improving or advancing justice and thus there is less peace. The brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of the police has shocked the nation and many communities beyond our borders. It is yet another in a large catalogue of such deaths against people of different races at the hands of the police over the years. The movement and the slogan, “Black lives matter”, is a very real cry from within the brokenness of our society. It should not have to exist, but it will be with us for many years to come and rightly so, until the objective of equality with stability, opportunity and justice for all, especially the poor and marginalized, no matter whatever their race, creed, color, ethnicity, sex or sexuality is established.

If one is against discrimination then one has to be against all discrimination without exception.

The shock of this outrage has compelled people to exercise their right to protest on the streets; much of them the younger members of our communities. Their righteous anger, and indignation, fearful yet peaceful cries for justice and change has rightly jolted us all to pay attention to this festering wound in our society. I remember the wonderful example of our younger members not so long ago protesting against horrendous school shootings and the seeming lack of political resolve to do anything about them. But as we have seen recently, their good conscience-driven concern has been hijacked by those unthinking rabble-rousing opportunists of evil intent, who have gone on a looting, pillaging and violent rampage in our cities resulting in fear, vandalism, destruction, pain and more deaths. It has been disgraceful in every sense of that word. Pope Francis and many of the Catholic Church’s bishops here in the USA have spoken out against the violence and yet have warned us not to let go of the true issue here, the racism that lead to the death of an innocent man at the hand of the authorities who he should have been able to trust. I add my voice to theirs. Having in the past been a police chaplain in London for several years I know how difficult it is to serve in the police and the pressures and fears facing the cop on the street. But there are systemic problems in some of our police forces and some rogue officers that need to be removed. Just saying there are only one or two bad apples is not good enough, apples don’t kill. All police officers need to be of such integrity and accountability that they are beyond reproach. Just as the Catholic Church, amongst many other institutions, has implemented a zero tolerance of any abusive members so must our police forces do the same and with vigor.

I could go on with further analysis of what I think is going on but I’d rather leave you with a few questions to ponder in your hearts.

  • Why can’t we treat each other with respect as having been made in the image and likeness of God?
  • How is it that each generation allows discrimination to take hold again and again?
  • How do we deal with our righteous anger without becoming abusive or preyed upon by vicious elements?
  • How can we break down the barriers in society?
  • When was the last time you actively sought out and connected with people of a different ethnic, racial or religious community than your own?
  • Are you honest about your own prejudices and what are you doing about them?
  • As an Englishman over here I have always been somewhat perplexed about why people have to identify themselves as, “I’m a Black American, I’m a Hispanic American, I’m a Native American, I’m a Muslim American or I’m an Asian American etc…?” When are we all going to be able to simply say, “I’m an American”, and be happy to relish the distinctions of heritage and culture without having to fear them nor wear them as an explanatory or defensive badge?
  • How can I use my faith, as did Martin Luther King, to try and move this mountain of bigotry standing in the way of peace and harmony?
  • Jesus is the Prince of Peace and he died for our redemption so, how can I use that gift to help redeem the nation from its original sin of racism?

My valued and beloved younger members of the parish, hold on to your idealism, hold on to your righteous anger against such dreadful deaths, violence and abuse of power. Channel it into action for peace based on justice. Be bold enough to cut out any discrimination in your hearts, be brave enough to get to know your fellow Americans of differing backgrounds to yours. Be the hope for the nation’s future. Witness the faith by lives of integrity and accountability, honesty and decency. Stand up and speak out for what you know to be right and to be a voice for those who cannot be heard. In effect, be the young woman or man God has created you to be.

George Floyd tried to tell his violent oppressor, “I can’t breathe” and died in the effort. You can breathe, you have a voice and you must exercise it; keep the cries of the poor, the discriminated against, and the broken, heard in the land. Worry the politicians of every party and hew by condemning them for their inaction, their self-interest and their complacency in the face of such evil in the land. Be the generation that does something about it.

God bless you, Fr Aidan-Peter CJ