Reflection on George Floyd

A Reflection on George Floyd from Bishop Joseph N. Perry

What a disturbing video capture, in view of the world’s eyes, of George Floyd detained by a police officer kneeling on his neck till life was crushed from him; a frightening emblem of relations white-and-black reinforced by similar atrocities embedded in memory of recent days; lest we forget other black men, young and old, grandfathers, great grandfathers, great-great grandfathers, ancestors whose necks were locked in chains during the Middle passage, then by ropes from a tree, a litany of men our brothers demeaned and emasculated. Is this the message of America towards its black citizens? Is this the fundamental assessment of whites towards blacks? Is this the closeted attitude of a nation calling itself free towards blacks and other groups this nation throws to the sides? And, so we pray, and we pray some more, and we pray still, hoping for deliverance in this vale of tears.

Bishop Joseph N. Perry

The Drum Newsletter

Statement of Cardinal Cupich on the murder of George Floyd and its aftermath

The past nights I have watched in great personal pain as the pent-up anger of our people caught fire across our country. I saw the city where I was born, the cities where I have lived, the city I pastor now, catch embers from the city where I was educated and burn. Was I horrified at the violence? Yes. Was I surprised? No.

As the saying goes, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. What did we expect when we learned that in Minneapolis, a city often hailed as a model of inclusivity, the price of a black life is a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill? When we added another name to the list of those murdered for being black or for caring about the marginalized?

I will not pretend to speak with any authority about the challenges people of color experience in our society. I do not share the fear they put on when they and their children leave their homes every day. I do not know what it means to be “other.” But I know there is a way to fix it. And the fix begins when we stop talking about the proportionality of “their” response and start talking about the proportionality of “ours.” Surely a nation that could put a man in space, his safety assured by the brilliance of black women, can create a fair legal system, equitable education and employment opportunities and ready access to health care. Laws do not solve problems, but they create a system where racism in all its forms is punished and playing fields are leveled.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been called a great equalizer. It has been even more a great revealer of societal cancers as deadly as the virus. As others have pointed out, health insecurity kills, and poverty is poison. We can and must make a society that views the soaring of a child’s potential with more joy than the soaring of a rocket.

I stand ready to join religious, civic, labor and business leaders in coming together to launch a new effort to bring about recovery and reconciliation in our city. We do not need a study of the causes and effects. Those answers can be found on the shelves of government offices and academic institutions across our burning nation. No, we need to take up the hard work of healing the deep wound that has afflicted our people since the first slave ships docked on this continent. And we need to start today.

21st Century Lynching’s in America: Our Red Record Statement issued by The National Black Sisters’ Conference NBSC

In 1895 the activist and Civil Rights icon, Ida B. Wells, wrote a research pamphlet called The Red Record. In it Mrs. Wells tabulated the numbers of lynchings in the United States since the Emancipation of African slaves. The conclusion was that little had changed for the Negro in America by the end of the nineteenth century. The Emancipation Proclamation, and federal programs like the Freedmen’s Bureau, did not prevent the death of thousands of Negros by the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Ida B. Wells writes: “in slave times the Negro was kept subservient and submissive... but with freedom the Negro is whipped, scourged, he is killed.” Fredrick Douglass, in a review of Mrs. Wells’ groundbreaking study, wrote: “If American moral sensibility was not hardened by the persistent infliction of outrage and crime against colored people, a scream of horror, shame, and indignation would rise from heaven.” America’s sensibility is still hardened in the twenty-first century. Black Americans still scream in horror. We still cannot breathe. Black Lives still do not Matter.

One-hundred and twenty-four years later we are still writing the same story! African American men, women, and children are still being lynched, murdered, and executed for playing with a toy gun, watching television in one’s own home, and mistaken identity, driving or jogging while black, and being chocked to death in cold blood by law enforcement officers, who have sworn to serve and protect.

We must speak and never forget their names.

Reason “Sean” Reed shot and killed in Indianapolis; Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician in Louisville, Ky., shot eight times in her bed; Amad Aubrey killed while out jogging; and George Floyd dying from a police officer’s knee on his neck as Mr. Floyd screamed, “I can’t breathe!’

The National Black Sisters’ Conference (NBSC) condemns the viral disease of systemic racism that America has legitimized and practiced for over 400 years! We will not remain silent! There is more than one pandemic affecting our nation!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism…

If this country is to reclaim it moral stature, we must confess and atone for our original sin, or America will self-destruct as a nation. As Malcolm X once warned the white power structure, “the chickens have come home to roost.

Without justice there can be no peace and justice demands that:

  • Law Enforcement is held accountable for their willful negligence and compliance in racist activities and actions.
  • Chock-holds and other life-threatening forms of physical restraint will not to be used when a suspect is not resisting arrest, and/or is already in custody.
  • When justified, as in the death of Mr. George Floyd, law enforcement officers are held accountable for their actions, and when warranted, arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Finally, as black Catholic religious women, we call upon Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and all bishops of good will to speak out on behalf of the church by denouncing these violent acts of hate and racism.

As Dr. King told us, “The arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

If the most recent pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is to have any moral legitimacy, then our episcopal leaders must give more than lip-service to addressing the sin of racism that is destroying communities of color around this nation.

As Christians, as Catholics, as people of faith, we must do more than just pray; we must model Jesus’ message to love one’s neighbor.

Our neighbor cannot breathe! Our neighbor is being lynched! Our neighbor is dying!

Our Red Record of Hate must end now!

National Black Sisters’ Conference Website

Statement regarding the Death of George Floyd by the Most Reverend Roy E. Campbell, Jr. President of the National Black Catholic Congress

My fellow citizens of these United States of America, we have witnessed in graphic video detail, racism on display in the twenty-first century in the killing of George Floyd, an arrested, unarmed, hand-cuffed and subdued black man by a white police officer, who refused to acknowledge a fellow human being’s cries of distress.

The National Black Catholic Congress (the Congress) joins the nonviolent calls and protests for a complete and transparent investigation of the killing of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Along with a call for investigation and justice, the Congress echoes Archbishop Bernard Hebda, of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, in which he states in part, “… Let us pray for comfort for his grieving family and friends, peace for a hurting community and prudence while the process moves forward. We need a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and veritable justice…”

Justice is what Mr. Floyd and his family and friends deserve. Justice through equal and fair treatment under the law is what every person in this country deserves. Justice brings about Peace, and Peace allows Love to Flourish. This is what the founding fathers of this country tried to promote in the Constitution and what this nation fought a Civil War to uphold, that ended one hundred and fifty-five years ago. However, the racism brought on by the enslavement of Black Americans in the years leading up to the establishment of the United States of America to the Civil War, still exists and all too frequently displays its ugly effects today in racist attitudes and actions that discriminate one people from another.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote: “Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.” He also wrote: “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose, they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”

Today, as we seek justice for George Floyd and his family, each of us must commit ourselves to the untiring pursuit of Justice, Peace and Love for every person in this country; because, together every person in this country makes us the United States of America.

A Statement on Current Events from The National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus

African American Spiritual
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

The National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus is trembling and heart-broken by recent tragic events – in particular, the racially motivated murders of unarmed Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, to name a few – which again reveal the systemic and normative dehumanization of Black lives in this nation.

Scripture says “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). As men of God – clergy and religious – we are required to protest injustice and to work for real justice. We therefore condemn White supremacy, police brutality, systemic racism, and vigilante justice as unjust and in fact evil.

As Black men of God, we are especially angered by America’s racist narrative of Blacks that – even in 2020 – leads to disproportionate targeting, incarceration and murder of Blacks, especially males. What U.S. Bishops said in their 1979 Pastoral Letter on Racism is still true: “Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church.” While law enforcement may be the more visible gatekeepers of racist societal norms, we see fit to protest the entirety of systemic racism which has infected law enforcers and law makers; politicians and business leaders; church and clerical leaders; educators and entertainers; and the list goes on.

The impact of systemic racism and oppression on our people is destructive – high blood pressure, alcoholism, addictions, broken relationships, unemployment, poverty, mental illness, trauma, and depression. This contributes to the underlying health conditions of Blacks; a vulnerability that COVID-19 tragically exposed to the world. Racism is a sin and all unchecked sin leads to death. Therefore, to revive the soul of our sinful nation, we must exorcise its demons of systemic racism and White supremacy.

That is why, as men of faith, we are called to act. The first action is always prayer. We pray for the souls of those tragically lost, for their grieving families and for their communities. We pray also for the healing of our nation from the suffocating impact of two viruses: COVID-19 and racism. Like COVID-19, those infected by racism can be asymptomatic, contagious and deadly. Treatment for the latter is not social distancing; rather, it’s opening our hearts to come together.

Therefore, we pray also for ourselves and our leaders, for the love to see the whole truth and the grace to act with love upon the truth we see. If we cannot act with love, then we should not act at all. But if we are not moved to act, then we do not truly possess love.

As clergy and religious, we serve all of God’s people even as Catholic Social Teaching humbles us to act as advocates for the poor and marginalized; to work for real justice; and to heal communities. If the Church does not walk humbly with grieving protestors, who will? When someone says “burn baby burn,” who is there to say “love baby love?” Conversely, when well-healed voices sow lies, who is there to encourage this truth spoken by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that “the beauty of America is the right to protest FOR rights?”

In truth, what makes one authentically Catholic or Christian? It is not a narcissistic image of oneself with a Bible or Church, as in a photo op; rather, it is one’s radical, unconditional love for the image of God stamped within all people, no matter their origins or walks of life. It is a living out of Christ’s teaching that “whatever you did to the least of my people, you did to me” (Matt 25:40).

For over 50 years, through many toils and prayers, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus has worked to liberate the nation and Church we love from systemic racism and White supremacy (see For our Church and nation to matter in Black lives today, that work must continue. We remain determined to bring about justice in America. When good people do nothing, evil wins. When good people stand up for truth and justice, America wins.

Yes, God bless America. When will America behave in a way that will justly bless God?