On the Second Anniversary of
George Floyd’s Murder

“Daddy changed the world.”

Gianna Floyd, 6- year old daughter of George Floyd

Here on the second anniversary of George Floyd’s horrific murder, I want to acknowledge some of the many ways that Gianna’s father’s tragic death has changed me as a white person along with millions of others and transformed the work of The Guibord Center forever.

Her dad’s murder has, indeed, changed us. Forever.  For the better.

White privilege runs deep. It is a wondrous thing always to get to go to the front of the line – until you see the barbed wire that’s been keeping others back. And the scars they bear from trying to move forward. And their anger, despair, and exhaustion from working harder than you can imagine while following the rules in a rigged system where they’ll never win.

That’s not right. It’s not fair.

Like millions of my white peers, when I watched that tape two years ago,  I suddenly remembered all the names I had been hearing: Trayvon Martin. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Young people murdered at the hands of the police or by white men playing cops. Yes, I heard the names and got angry, but I had done nothing. I had heard them through a cultural cloud of denial that surrounded such reports and concerns and… I had done nothing! “That’s just how it is.” “A horrible fact of life.” “There’s nothing I can do.” It’s just the racist system.” These thoughts ran through my head, muting my concern and enabling me to disconnect from myself without ever being aware of what I was doing.

I had confronted many injustices of racism since childhood. It always felt wrong. I knew it was wrong. It wasn’t fair.  “That’s just how it is.” “It’s the system.” “It’s all okay.”  Those were the answers to my concern and alarm. Over and over again. The mantras blurred the pain and muted the tears. My heart, like so many others,  learned to become numb.

And then George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer who looked directly into the camera and defied anyone – defied me –  to stop him.

The horror of the certainty of impunity on Derek Chauvin’s face finally broke the spell.

No! “That’s NOT just how it is”! Racism is not preordained! Not right! It’s not how it has to be! Not anymore! The spell shattered, and millions of white Americans finally awakened to the excruciating pain of the cruel injustice that is racism in America.

Racism is a spiritual issue. It is a hardening of the heart. It is a denial of the sanctity of the other.

No!

In the immediate aftermath of the murder, many people asked us at The Guibord Center “to do something.  Go down there and help people”.

I winced. “No.”  We have always had a policy of asking people of different backgrounds to tell their own stories. We needed to listen, open our hearts, look at our assumptions, and prayerfully and humbly seek to understand the toxic and self-damaging way we had been trained to deny the fullness of the sacred in our brothers and sisters of color.

We called our entire Guibord Center Community together – Our Board, Advisory Council, staff, friends, and colleagues — and invited them to join in a year of prayer and discernment about what we could do as people of faith to grapple with the urgent spiritual necessity of breaking open our hardened hearts and engaging in the process of setting things right.

We met with Black colleagues and listened deeply to them. We hired a Black professional with excellent confrontational skills to help us break through our layers of denial about the racism we recognized we carry. We read together and met weekly for many months to study and pray together and gradually felt the walls around our hearts breaking open.

We began a unique initiative on “Nonviolence and Racism” and brought in speakers from across faiths to teach us about nonviolence as an effective force for changing racist systems. After completing the full complement of structured antiracist training with our expert, we continued to meet weekly without her and still do so. It’s a beginning.

We continue to bring issues of racism into our Inspiring Stories Series. A number of us have joined Rev. James Lawson’s monthly Saturday morning seminars to dig deeper. We continue to grapple with ways to change the injustices embedded in every aspect of our laws and businesses and to staunchly raise the voices of concern in the streets and pulpits and playgrounds all around us as the sacred and spiritual truths that unite us to Creation and one another are frayed and denied.

George Floyd’s murder has, indeed, changed the world. Not enough yet, but it has begun. It’s opened our hearts and led to significant changes in how we see and treat one another. We’re more aware now. More respectful. More vocal. More inclusive. The change is a life-long process. We have a long way to grow, and we are committed to staying faithful to the process.

I hope you’ll continue to join us.

Dr. Lo Sprague
President – The Guibord Center
Turning Religion Inside Out