Black lives matter.
Let's not diminish that statement by saying that all lives matter. Of course they do. But most white moms and dads don't have to worry about teaching their children how to respond to hostile white people, especially those in authority. They don't have to instruct their kids how to behave so they don't end up the innocent victim of a racist authority figure. One of my African American friends described to me the almost constant fear she feels that her son will be killed even when he has done nothing wrong. The situation just isn't the same for white folks.
We usually think of Norman Rockwell as the warmhearted, red, white, and blue chronicler of the innocence of middle-class American life, and while that would describe much of his work, many people are less aware of the paintings he did to promote civil rights. This painting, The Problem We All Live With, is one of those moving masterpieces. I remember being particularly struck by this painting when I visited the Norman Rockwell Museum a few years ago; transfixed by this image of endangered innocence. Rockwell created it in 1964 to celebrate the quiet courage of little Ruby Bridges, one of the first black kids to be integrated into an all-white school. She is six years old and clothed in a bright white dress, her head held high and her school books grasped firmly in her hand. She is being escorted to school by four US Marshals as they pass by a wall which has been pelted by a tomato and on which is scrawled the obscenity, "nigger."
The integration of schools was a first step in the right direction of justice and equality in education, and it was followed by other important steps forward. But it seems to me that the events of the past few days show we still have a very long way to go. There is still so much suspicion and fear and outright hatred that continue to be weaponized. What should a Christian (and every decent human being for that matter) do?
In response to the George Floyd outrage I saw a lot of posts of Bible verses about loving one another, which is all good and fine. But it seems to me that we need more than inspirational memes and good thoughts and temporary outrage. We need to make big changes--first in our own hearts, and then, importantly, radical and substantial changes in our broken justice and policing systems. No one who lays claim to being a follower of Christ can just sit by with hands folded in prayer and hope things get better. We need more than just prayers. We need to work toward a more just society.
We need to create a culture in which the next Ruby Bridges doesn't have to walk in fear.