• Jo Ellen Lyons


As a bit of a crime buff, I see a lot of on-screen murders. I often close my eyes. Sometimes I cover my ears. I don’t like violence. For me, the enjoyment of this genre of entertainment is the psychological puzzle and the tension that takes place between the criminal and law enforcement--and, of course, wanting the good guys to win.

Wednesday night I was in someone else’s vehicle, listening to talk radio and the host introduced the audio of the George Floyd incident. I said, ‘I don’t think I can listen to this.” I was ignored. So, I girded my loins and got over my ninny self. Mainly, though, I recognized that as an American and as a child of God, I had no right to hide from the horrific reality of this man’s last few moments on earth. And I listened.

Later, I saw about two minutes of the video.

When you hear the words ‘cold blooded murder’, you tend to think of a quick slash of violence--from a knife or a gun. Or at least I do. I think the quickness and the decisiveness as lacking something basic to humanity.

I have now seen a cold-blooded murder. Not accompanied by a swelling musical piece or edited for effect. Not cut to a courtroom scene or a hospital setting or a critical piece of the storyline. Not for entertainment value.

No, I saw a man in authority calmly and slowly--so heartbreakingly slowly--kill a man in his custody, who begged for relief

. . . who begged for breath

. . . and then for his mama. I saw power abused. I saw a human destroyed and our collective humanity along with it.

Since George Floyd’s murder there has been rioting and chaos in Minneapolis. Over 170 businesses have been destroyed. Why does this shock or anger us? Why does it surprise us? After all, the perp--I often talk like I’m in a crime show--is still free. Make no mistake--I don’t believe the looting and burning of police stations is right. But I’m not surprised. What are we supposed to do when those in power abuse it so blatantly and are not IMMEDIATELY called to task? When its ON FILM? What do you turn that anger towards?

I don’t believe this is about race. I believe it IS about power. To me, the issue of power is at the heart of racism. Who has the power and who’s willing to share it and who’s fighting for it and who is making folks uncomfortable. There are three kinds of relationships*:

One relationship dynamic is where no one has power. There is a lot of fear and confusion in this kind of relationship.

The second type of relationship is where only one party has power. In that scenario, there is condemnation and manipulation and resentment.

In the third kind of relationship, both people or parties are empowered. That dynamic produces freedom. FREEDOM. It is time for us to begin empowering one another. It is time for us to accept nothing less from our leaders and those in authority. From our media. From our employers and our life partners and our friends. It is time to empower ourselves and our children---not with indulgence and entitlement but with honesty and humility and appropriate consequences. Nothing less will build a world of compassion and justice. Justice for George Floyd is justice for all of us. Because his death is more than just a man in another state we might never visit. His death and the manner in which it took place is a deep and nearly fatal wound for his family and city, for the black community, the law enforcement community and the heart of all of us who value human life. Justice for him is imperative to heal this wound. Going forward, justice must look like empowerment and the subsequent freedom for EVERY single one of us. Whether we’re being stopped for a traffic violation or buying a car or supporting a political candidate or living in a neighborhood or making our way in the workplace.

To the degree that we don’t empower our fellow man--even those who oppose us and those different from us and those we don't understand--to that degree that we withhold, we are the authors of injustice to them and ourselves and our communities. It is a harsh truth, but when we fail to commit to the empowering of ALL others, we leave ourselves open to the temptation of putting the knee to their neck.

Justice is freedom.

The freedom to breathe.

To breathe without fear.

*Taken from Danny Silk's "Loving on Purpose" course.

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