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After George Floyd’s Murder, What Can One Man Do?

By Dennis Rainey

Recent events have … rocked me.

Shocked me.

Mocked me.

George Floyd’s murder. Videoed?!

Peaceful protests hijacked by looters. Videoed?!

It’s taken me to a private place I’ve been with God many times before … grieving the loss of human dignity and prayerfully wondering, “What is my responsibility as a follower of Christ?”

Wound tight in the turmoil of my emotions, I’ve said nothing publicly for over a week.

“Sheltering in place” provided a place of solitude that has turned into an island of clarity for prayerfully answering questions like: “What do I do? How should I respond? How can I be a part of the healing process? What should any of us do?”

As a white man I know what it means to speak too quickly … thinking that I might have something to say.

So I didn’t speak.

I listened … to God. To my African American friends … and listened to God some more.

I was still uncertain that I had anything to say, but I do know I have a heart that wants to reach out. So here’s what I’ve done and what I have to say.

First, I began reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” This took two mornings and brought truckloads of understanding on my end.

A few of my many takeaways from Dr. King’s letter that I am still chewing on and processing are:

  • Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

  • “An unjust law is no law at all.” St. Augustine, as quoted by MLK. (A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.)

  • People of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will.

  • If the church today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 21st century.

  • Peaceful protests earn the right to be heard. Anger and unlawful demonstrations negate the message of what needs to be heard.

I’m not certain what I believe about every issue raised in his letter, but like I said, I’m processing them. If you have never read King’s letter, I encourage you to do so. It will help you better understand what these protests are about. (don’t rush your way through it…MLK was a very thoughtful articulate man who understood the gospel.)

Second, as I ran some errands in my community last Tuesday, I was wanting to do something. I didn’t know what. Just something. As I dropped off some clothes for dry cleaning the lady at the cleaners came out to help me.

She was African American.

She greeted me pleasantly, and after she recorded the three pieces I dropped off, I turned to go back to my car.

But something nudged me to turn back and say something.

I didn’t have time to think, it just came out of my heart.

Unrehearsed, I looked her in the eyes and attempted to say what I’d been feeling. Reaching my right hand over my heart, I said, “I just want you to know that I am … I am REALLY sorry. What happened to George Floyd was wrong.”

I paused for a moment.

Then said, “I really am sorry … sorry for all the evil that has been perpetrated on you and others in the African American community for hundreds of years.”

I stopped.

I hadn’t gone in there with a predetermined message, but one came out of my heart anyway.

She put her hand over her heart and responded, “I am a mom of three young men. Each day as they go to work driving a truck. And I worry every day if they’ll make it home.”

Then she stopped.

There we stood. Face to face. Heart to heart.

Two strangers mystically engaged in a Divine appointment at a “Cleaners.” (isn’t that what we need today, a Divine Cleaner of our hearts?)

Although I’d never been where she is, I knew what she meant. Then

her cheeks swelled, and I could see her grinning through her COVID-19 mask, and she said, choking back the tears, “Your words, sir, just made my day.”

It was a powerful moment between a mama and a daddy. I honestly don’t remember if I ended up hugging her or not, I may have. It was a mystical moment for both of us. Regardless, she knew that I cared.

To be certain, the racial divide needs more than just the words “I’m sorry” between two strangers.

But for a person with white skin who’s made all kinds of mistakes, even if you don’t know what they are specifically, it never hurts to say, “I’m sorry.” Can you be sorry for the fear these mamas, daddys, siblings, grammas and grandpas feel? I hope so. We can all say that.

What if ten million Caucasian Americans told ten million African Americans, “I’m sorry” in the next 30 days? God’s love is more powerful than hate (1 John 4:8-9).

Do you know what were among George Floyd’s final words before he lost consciousness and died?

“Mama … Mama … please, help me … Mama.”

May God help us.

Dennis Rainey

Psalm 112:1-2

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