The US has been convulsed by nationwide protests over the death of an unarmed African-American man in police custody.
Mr George Floyd, 46, died after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the 25th of May. Footage of the arrest shows a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes while he told him “I can’t breathe”.
Writing on the matter, Revd Darius Weithers, an Anglican priest from Croydon, reiterated the words of A.D.A. France-Williams – author of Ghost Ship: Institutional Racism and the Church of England – that ‘the death of George Floyd was the “death of every black human’.
The cleric said seeing the footage of Floyd being helplessly pinned to the floor and fighting to stay alive conjured images of innumerable people of colour who have died on the hands of those who swore to serve them.
“When we saw the lifeless body of George Floyd, White knee on Black neck, we saw ourselves. We saw our brothers Stephen Lawrence, Michael Brown, Philando Castille and Eric Garner. We saw Colin Kaepernick Black-balled as the Black Sheep of the NFL, as he prophetically knee-led in protest of our suffering.
“In our peripheral vision, we noticed Raheem Sterling and Meghan Markle being Black-listed by the British media. Then we took a step back, and we saw our ancestors, chained, whipped and shipped in boxes like cheap tat. We saw our great cousins, re-cast as “Strange Fruit” as their Black bodies swung from Southern trees. ” he said.
The youthful priest went on to say that black suffering was tantamount to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, even though the Western religions have historically downplayed it.
“And in the same gaze, we saw Christ, hanging from a Roman cross, uttering over and over, “I can’t breathe! There is no Black suffering, that is not also the suffering of Christ,” said Revd Darius.
“Therefore, there is no Black suffering that is not all of our suffering. Yet sadly, my experience has been, within the majority White church, that Black suffering is considered as something peripheral to the gospel of Christ.”
Quoting James Cone who said that the ‘conspicuous absence of the lynching tree in American theological discourse” was profoundly revealing, especially since the crucifixion was clearly a first-century lynching, Revd Darius submitted that the Eurocentric American theology failed to join the dots between Jesus’ lynching and that of 5000 Black men and women.
The priest also reminded the Church of the Pauline theology that prescribes that if one part of the Body of Christ suffers, “every part suffers with it’. He censured countless and theologians who had nothing to offer in response to that episode of Black suffering but silence.
Said Revd Darius; “What often connects Black experience, both globally and historically, is the pain and trauma of suffering myriad forms of racism. Every story of police brutality against a Black body triggers that trauma. Black people know all too well that the systems we depend on are broken.
“Until we dismantle and rebuild these oppressive, sinful systems together; Systems that enable one person to kneel on the neck of another; Where Black people in Britain are 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched, and 3 times more likely to be arrested than our White counterparts; Where in 2020 we’re still talking about the Church of England system as “deeply institutionally racist”. Black people continue to struggle to breathe.
“That’s why I, and others like me, are hurting so much right now. It’s why I relate so deeply to the rage that is consuming protesters both in the USA and here in England,” said Revd Darius.
Meanwhile, Derek Chauvin, the officer who continued to kneel on Mr Floyd’s neck as he pleaded that he could not breathe, has been charged with second-degree murder and is due to appear in court on Monday.
The other three officers — Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, who helped restrain Floyd, and Tou Thao, who stood nearby — are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Addressing Floyd’s memorial service at North Central University in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday, lawyer Benjamin Crump said it was not the coronavirus pandemic that killed George Floyd but “the pandemic of racism and discrimination.”
Members of Mr Floyd’s family, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey were among several hundred people at the service.
Floyd’s brother and other family members told personal stories about dancing, playing football, cooking and enjoying life together. They said he was known by the endearing nickname “Big George.”
Furious Baptist minister Reverend Al Sharpton awakened the memorial service with the bitter history of black and brown people in America as he demanded accountability.
“We won’t stop,” he said, referring to protests that have taken place in every US state. “We’re going to keep going until we change the whole system of justice.”
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