<span style="font-size: 1rem;">I am sure I’m not alone in feeling shock, horror, disgust and incredulity at the murder of George Floyd in the USA. Comments like ‘how can this happen in a civilised country in the 21st century’ and many others have been voiced this week. Condemnation has been expressed far and wide about this incident and about the racist undercurrent which allows, and could be said to encourage it.</span>
But should we be surprised or shocked? The presence of such a big white-supremacist lobby presupposes the belief that there is a group over whom you can be ‘supreme’ - that you deserve a better deal in life, that you should expect better treatment and greater opportunities. This is a society where it is known to be dangerous to be black in some places. It is a society where it is known you are more likely to be arrested if you are black, where it is more likely you will suffer injury and even death during the arrest and detention period than if you are white. To a lesser degree this also applies if you are not the ‘right sort of white’ (unemployed, homeless or holding certain political views for example). This is a society where it appears those in power seem unable (or unwilling?) to address injustice from the very top down to the individual in the community. We should not be surprised.
But this is America isn’t it? Not here in the UK…… But let’s step back a bit. What about us? Do our views and our practices (nationally and personally) always stand up to the magnifying glass test? In our own country and neighbourhoods is everyone regarded with equal respect and treated justly? Do we NEVER make assumptions and pass judgements based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status? Have we never blamed migrant workers, or refugees, or travellers for particular problems in our locality or country? It is just a few short steps from negative comments, to negative actions, to negative policies, to what we have seen taking place this past week.
Alison reminded us this morning that ‘Black Lives Matter’ doesn’t mean that all other lives don’t matter. She reminded us that Jesus spoke of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep safe in their fold while he hunted for the 1 sheep who was in danger. I believe it is the duty of all right minded people (and an absolute command for Christians) to stand up and be counted where inequality or injustice are evident, to be outspoken when we encounter injustice or discrimination of any kind, large or small. Because it isn’t just racism which is a problem in our world. Any situation where a group of people are judged as a group rather than individuals is wrong. Where individuals or institutions judge others as ‘less than’, people will lose their identity and value in the eyes of the community.
This morning Ian Bishop, our archdeacon (or Bishop Ian as the website put it!) spoke about this event in America. He said; ‘it is not enough to say we are not racist. We must say we are anti-racist’. This must surely apply to any type of injustice? Whether it is a recognised form of discrimination, such as racism or sexism, or whether it is the way our policies at government level or our actions at a neighbourhood level undervalue or discriminate against any people in our society because of their circumstances.
There are so many ways we label people (gay, traveller, refugee, immigrant), not always intending to be negative, but God only labels us as ‘beloved child’ and ‘precious’, he calls us by name – these are the only labels we need to remember about anyone. I am Debbie. I am white. I am Welsh. I am a parent. If I offend you it is Debbie who offends, not the Welsh, or the Whites, or people who are parents. The only one of these labels in God’s book is my name and beside it is written ‘precious’ and ‘loved’.
Look at some verses from Isaiah 43:
But now, this is what the Lord says, he who created you:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you….For I am the Lord your God…..Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you. …Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
This is how God look upon every one of his children. And it is how he demands we look upon each other.