I was a teenager during the Viet Nam Era. One night the evening news decided the American public needed to see the horrors of the war. There on our livingroom television a Viet Cong fighter was forced to kneel. A Vietnamese chief of police walked up to the man and shot him in the head. It was that stark. The image is still etched in my mind. It was one execution more than I ever needed to see.
And then I saw the news yesterday. A black man was arrested and cuffed. He was taken to the ground by police officers. One officer put his knee on the man’s neck. Three officers looked on. The man called out, “I can’t breath. I can’t breath.” Over. And over. In spite of the number of cell phones recording the scene, in spite of protests from civilians present, the knee stayed in place. The man stopped moving. An ambulance took him away. He died.
It was a lynching.
No, I didnt’t have to follow a mob to watch with the crowd. There it was on my tablet. And I watched. I couldn’t stop. I was crying by the end.
There was no rope thrown over a tree limb and pulled tight. But there was a knee. It took the air away.
There were no members of my community present – no one I knew, but they were Minnesotans. I’m usually very proud to be a Minnesotan where we Blue State Lutherans are proud of our liberal way of life, our support of the marginalized, our open minded, live-and-let-live regard toward our neighbors.
For the most part we are of Northern European heritage. We respect law and order. (Some of my favorite church members and youth group leaders are in law enforcement.) We are proper. We expect respect. It’s time to insist on it – in ourselves and in others.
For the most part we have Christian backgrounds. We regard people as children of God. We suppert the sanctity of life. We expect humane behavior. It’s time to challenge inhumane beliefs – in ourselves and in others.
And we are Northerners. While we know better, we like to believe race matters are Southern matters. It’s time to know it is us.
In less than ten minutes of video – which felt like an eternity – all of my expectations of Minneapolis right disappeared. I was more convicted than ever of my white privilege. I need to fix myself. And I must be more vocal.
This must stop.
Thank you, police department for firing the four officers. Thank you Minneapolis mayor for asking that charges be filed. Thank you FBI for investigating.
Now let’s go further and deeper. Let’s admit our responsibility in creating and allowing a world of privilege. Let’s admit our inability to call for right. Let’s figure out a way for us to all be community. It’s way beyond time to be about this seemingly impossible change. But it’s not to late to start.
I don’t want to see another lynching.