Will the death of George Floyd be the birth of racial reconciliation?
We are blessed by God to live in a prosperous nation. Yet we remain on the journey the United States Constitution envisions of forming “a more perfect Union.”
Thomas Jefferson’s correct assertion in the Declaration of Independence that all of us are ”created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights” is not yet a reality for all Americans. The horrific murder of George Floyd tells us we have far to go.
Our hearts are bruised and broken today. We sympathize with the anger, frustration and disappointment of our fellow black citizens as they experience the remnants of slavery, the black codes, Jim Crow laws and Massive Resistance.
This week, the family of George Floyd is laying him to rest. Today, the heart and soul of the nation, already battered by a health and economic crisis, is filled with unrest, as we again stare the evil sin of racism in the face.
Fellow Virginians, this time our reaction must be different and enduring.
Since 1619, when our political ancestor Colonial Gov. George Yeardley authorized the first American slave trade with the privateers from the White Lion ship at what’s now Fort Monroe, there has been human bondage and discrimination against African Americans in our country. For those who do not acknowledge it, they do not understand history.
We commend and strongly support the peaceful Virginians of all races who have taken to the public square to rightfully and strongly condemn personal and institutional racism in all its forms. They have exercised their precious First Amendment rights of speech, religion, redress and assembly with vigor and passion. It is the essence of a vibrant democracy.
We strongly condemn violent protesters, some from other states, who have assaulted police officers, injured innocent citizens and destroyed the property of others.
We commend and strongly support the overwhelming majority of good law enforcement officers of all races, who sacrifice their lives and safety daily to keep more than 8 million Virginians safe. We mourn the 95 law enforcement officers who have given their lives in the line of duty so far this year in America.
We strongly condemn the evil brutality and excessive force of those who recklessly wield police power, which has led to the injury or death of our fellow black countryman over the centuries. This must stop now. No excuses. No delays.
We call on churches, synagogues and faith communities to take an unequivocal and historic stand for a change of heart in America. The evil of racism is born out of the evil in the human heart. In Matthew 15, Jesus said, “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart and… Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder…” When the heart changes, the culture and the laws will change.
We call on all Virginians to elevate their hearts to the moral high ground of the Golden Rule, to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Love your neighbor! It is the essential teaching of most of the world’s major religions. It is the only long-term cure for the viruses of racism and discrimination.
We call on policymakers to reduce the election-year rhetoric and increase the action to enact workable bipartisan solutions. As with the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, now is the moment. We suggest:
Rigorously screen and hire only those men and women with the courage and character to handle the lofty power of a badge and a gun. Create a zero-tolerance policy for any law enforcement officer who uses excessive force. No transfers. No police jobs.
At last, tell the complete history of our black and Native American countrymen in our school textbooks. Ignorance contributes to discrimination.
Create true equality in the quality of all Virginia public schools. The Virginia Constitution guarantees black, brown and white kids the same free equal “high quality” public education. It is the civil rights issue of our time.
Virginians must take time this day to deeply look into our hearts and root out our own bias and prejudice, and become part of the solution and not the problem. Black and white Virginians, get out of your comfort zone and build new relationships from the pulpit to the playground. White Virginians, go to a black church and invite a black friend to your church. Pastors, exchange pulpits to preach.
Walk the Richmond Slave
Trail to Lumpkin’s Jail site and feel the pain of slave trade history. Read Richard Rothstein’s “The Color of Law” and think deeply. Spend 8 minutes and 42 seconds on your knees remembering how George Floyd died, and earnestly pray for healing for our state and nation.
People of all ages chanted during a peaceful protest on Broad Street Sunday.