A video of a handcuffed black man named George Floyd pleading for air, while a white police officer kneeled on his neck, has horrified people around the world.
Floyd died during this encounter, leading to the arrest of police officer Derek Chauvin and protests over the excessive force so often directed by law enforcement toward black men in America.
Chauvin’s arrest is a step toward holding whites accountable for violence against blacks.
The officer has been charged with second-degree murder after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, according to some accounts. In addition, the U.S. Justice Department will launch an investigation into potential violations of federal civil rights laws.
Protests have arisen in at least 140 cities across the United States, and in London, Paris and Berlin as well. Many of the demonstrations have been peaceful, but some have turned into violent clashes. In Minneapolis, protesters set fire to a police station as violence spread through the Twin Cities.
A 20-year-old black woman named Erika Atson was among the thousands of peaceful demonstrators who came together in Minneapolis to call for justice. She told the Associated Press that she was worried about raising children who could be vulnerable in encounters with the police. “We don’t want to cause any damages,” she said. “We just want the police officer to be held accountable.”
Yes, whites who abuse African-Americans need to be held accountable.
Such abuse has a long history in the United States. One of the distortions of the Bible used to justify slavery was the assertion of Southern plantation owners that slave-owning was “responsible dominion over a less fortunate, less evolved people.“
This notion of dominion comes from the Book of Genesis, in which God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion … ” (1:26). White slave-owners naturally thought of themselves as being made in the image and likeness of God, but they did not have that same high opinion of the blacks they owned as slaves. Instead, owners thought God had given them dominion over their slaves. Although slavery ended with the Civil War, white supremacy has endured.
Dominion and dominate are closely related terms, with dominion meaning “stewardship” or “supremacy” and dominate meaning “to rule or control by superior authority or power.” Most of us would argue that police officers exercise legitimate dominion over people when they make arrests for violations of the law. But dominion can easily shift to dominate. In response to recent protests, Attorney General William Barr said, “Law enforcement response is not going to work unless we dominate the streets.”
The urge to dominate has led to a history of horrible violence against blacks.
In my upcoming novel Windows of the Heavens (sequel to City of Peace) an African-American businessman named Jefferson Jones tells pastor Harley Camden about his history in the riverside town of Occoquan, Virginia.
“Justice was the name of my first shopping center,” Jefferson says.
“Up at the top of Tanyard Hill Road?”
“Exactly,” says the older man. “Bought the land and developed it while I was still a shopkeeper here in Occoquan.”
“Must have been expensive,” Harley surmises.
“Not too bad,” says Jefferson, smiling. “The owner stopped paying his property taxes, so I got the land in a tax sale.”
Jefferson shakes his head. “No, he was a total racist. A member of the KKK. I was happy to take his land and develop Justice Plaza. Good name, don’t you think?”
“Absolutely,” Harley nods. “I had no idea where the name came from.”
“Most people don’t,” acknowledges Jefferson. “Justice seems innocuous. You know, like the line, ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way.’ But for me it has a very special and specific meaning.”
Harley had driven by Justice Plaza many times, not knowing its history and hardly noticing its name. As the novel develops, the dark history of that property begins to emerge.
Jefferson Jones found a powerful way to hold whites accountable for violence against blacks. In an appropriate way, he exercised dominion.
How can you hold yourself and others accountable for acts of racism and violence? Join the conversation through a comment below.
Shouldn’t people of any color be held accountable for violence against people of any color? I’m not clear what color has to do with any of this.
Absolutely. Everyone should be held accountable for violence. But in the history of the US, we have had a huge problem with whites doing violence against blacks. Read about the history of lynchings, for example. Very troubling.
What is the status of Windows of the
Heavens ? When will we get to buy
Thank you, Linda. The first draft is finished, and I hope that it will be published in the next year or so.
I have wanted these thoughts in me to be quieted,but they will not. My heart burns to say these things.
Much of the world was broken hearted seeing this horrible sight you describe. Thankfully,the police officer committing this act,and those watching doing nothing were fired immediately.The former officer has been charged with second degree murder and man slaughter,and the others as accessories. A trial will be held, the facts presented,judgement and sentencing will take place. You have rightly said the US Justice Department will investigate if civil rights laws were broken.
You mentioned the murder,and protest, but that is only a part of the story. The protest spawned riots,destroying property,looting,and and fifteen murders. Telling all of the storty is truth,leaving out many important parts of the story is not truth as you did.
And the woman speaking we just want the officers held accountable was obviously only speaking for herself because the riots continued and murders continued. We the people want the rioters,looters and murderers held accountable.Also, the mayors of these cities should be held accountable for allowing the riots,destroying property,stealing,and murders. We have had much sad experiences after a death of a black man by police in most of these very cities. Why did they not get their police in many numbers out in front of the rioters to stop it when it began ? Experience was there to alert them this was going to happen. Why didn’t they dominate their streets with police as Attorney General Barr said ? Instead of using Attorney General Barr’s comment to illustrate what law enforcement should do to make it work in situations like this, you could have added more of what he said to make sence of it.But,you chose to use only part of part of it to disparage what he said to make your point.Do you think this
The white supremacy you mention is evil and sin.God respects and loves all people. In our goal,as Christians,to be more like Him we are to respect and love all peoples. The Southerners were misguided by the many,many years of slavery that existed in the South,and their passion pulled them into a war that divided the the USA,and killed over 600 hundred thousand good men.This was a war of good over evil that finally ended freeing the slaves and United the Sates back to the United States of America.
The sin of pride remained in many Sourthern hearts,and propelled some to promote the loss cause as honorable.The South was flooded with memorials to the war with many statues being put in place to honor the leaders of the war. The South was reimagined making the plantations with slaves a lovely place.Nothing did this better than Margret Mitchell’s,Gone With The Wind,best selling noval.
These have kept slavery alive almost two hundred years after the war instead of ending it. The younger generation,blacks and whites, have said enough.And are taking the 700 statutes down to end slavery. They should be taken down by the municipalities where they reside.
I have a dream of all reminders of slavery removed from society except in history books,and National Parks. When this is done,we can finally celebrate the end of slavery and uniting of our people.
Always good to reread excepts from that other great book,City Of Peace.
Bless you,my pastor and friend.
Thank you, Linda, for sharing your thoughts.