As millions of people from all walks of life were taking to the streets in protest after police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020, I tried my best to avoid engaging in conversations where people were trying to arrest something ‘meaningful’ from the incomprehensible.
There is no ‘reason’ that police brutality marches on even during a global pandemic other than policing is brutal in season and out, and brutal policing of Black peoples serves the interests of power.
About a month after Floyd’s death, I was having Zoom drinks with a dear white friend when, for a moment, I let my guard drop.
“God Bless George Floyd,” she said. “He is the wake-up call God intended for us.”
I listened to her find reasons that the world finally ‘saw’ the video of Chauvin pressing the life out of Floyd with his knees. She was clear – the world needed to see ‘this brutality’ to finally do something about bad cops. I listened. Mostly, I just wept silent tears. The more I cried, the more reasons she offered for why she thought George Floyd ‘gave his life.’ Finally, I wiped my face and tried to remember that I was sitting with someone I considered a friend. I held my hand up asking her to stop and took a few deep breaths.
With the anguish of the exhausted, and with the images of trading cards and post cards depicting the lynchings of Black people ingrained in my mind, I responded trying to hold on to the last bit of whatever one holds on to in the effort to contain boiling rage.
“I’m trying to show some grace for the sake of our friendship, but I’m exhausted by holding that kind of grace and space, even with you. Don’t ever say that to anyone else. Don’t do that. God did not “intend” for George Floyd to be executed in the grossest, Blackest, and most violent, American-apple-pie kind of way possible just to send you a wake up call. He did not give up his life. He was executed.”
We sat in silence for a few moments, awkwardly staring at each other through the computer screen. Finally she said, “Well, what do you think God is trying to say by letting this happen?”
I looked at my friend and wondered what she would have said had it been my Black child calling ‘mother’ with dying breaths. What would she have said had it been me weeping and wailing over my child’s body?
“Don’t blame God for this. Don’t blame God because the system human beings intentionally designed to contain, control, and kill people who look like me actually works,” I whispered. “The question is not, “What is God saying.” The question is what will you do?”
The Rev. Timothy Adkins-Jones invited me to preach one of the Good Friday sermons for his April 2021 service at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, NJ. I thank him for trusting me for the assignment. I am sharing here the link to the sermon I offered for that occasion – “Trembling at Golgotha” (Matthew 27: 33-34, 45-46) because that sermon was born in the brokenness of my heart back in June 2020 as my friend and I stared at each other across a computer screen.
Trembling, trembling, trembling….still.