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All Talk?

All Talk?

Rice, Condoleeza, “This moment cries out for us to confront race in America”, Opinions, Washington Post (June 4, 2020)

Jacobs, Alan, “not so much”, blog posting on  Snakes and Ladders (June 7, 2020)

All of us have thought at one time or another over the past few days, “I wonder how long this will last?” Some of us have seen over fifty years of protests, riots, and disruptions in American society, after which sometimes some things of lasting value happened and sometimes nothing did. The protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer, have now lasted for a good two weeks and are showing no signs of abating soon. The first few days were filled with a mixture of looting, rioting, and peaceful protesting, but now most of the protests are peaceful, and they have spread beyond our shores to London, Berlin, and other major cities of the world.

Former Secretary of Defense Condoleeza Rice, the first black woman to hold that prestigious position, has written, “In the wake of Floyd’s death, Americans and people around the world are experiencing shock, grief, outrage — a set of emotions that too often are repeated. If the past is a guide, these feelings will fade and we will return to our lives. But something tells me — not this time. Floyd’s horrific death should be enough to finally move us to positive action.” She goes on to liken this event to that of Rosa Parks refusing to move in 1955, when told by a bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama, to move to the “colored section” so a white man could have her seat. She wonders if Floyd’s death will have the same stimulating power as the deaths of four little black girls, killed by a bomb set in their church in Birmingham in September, 1963.

No one can know what lasting results might actually issue from Floyd’s death, but one thing is certain. As Alan Jacobs argues in his brief blog piece, the long, slow process of thinking about, discussing, and otherwise working on real, substantial issues is the only thing that will cause effective change. Perhaps such work will result from this untimely, horrific crime. But only time will tell.

Jacobs has been thinking, talking, and writing about race since he “grew up in Alabama during the Civil Rights era and what happened there and then… left a permanent mark on [him].” In this blog, he suspects that many of the protestors have been seduced by the twin deceivers of novelty and unanimity into thinking that what they are doing by protesting—some of them trying to badger others to join them—will be enough. He calls for those who have been seeking to right the many other wrongs in the world to keep doing whatever they have been led to do to contribute to its health and well-being. Race can’t, and shouldn’t, be the priority of all of us, but something—some lack or some evil in the world—should be the regular and persistent concern of all of us.

Rice makes essentially the same point. She also calls for us to act in whatever way we can. These two brief pieces, one by a white University professor, one by a black former government leader, are a good place to start thinking about what is happening today in the protests against racism and oppressive brutality, but they are not close to the best place to end. We must all think, talk, and act, if we are to follow the One Who sought to bring people from every tongue, tribe, and nation into the circle of His love, and did so until the day He died. And, in fact, after that. He’s still working, right up to this very day.

Drew Trotter

June 10, 2020

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