George Floyd and his tragic murder by a police officer has taught us much over the past months. First, the rule of law is critical for a society to flourish. Derek Chauvin flagrantly violated his oath to “serve and protect.” I, for one, am glad that he was found guilty. Murder is murder and those responsible must be held accountable.
Second, even though we are not personally responsible for slavery and the consequences of it, we do live in a society that systematically benefits from the oppression of others. Isabel Wilkerson wrote in her remarkable book, Caste, “Slavery was not merely an unfortunate thing that happened to Black people. It was an American innovation, an American institution created by and for the benefit of the elites of the dominant caste and enforced by poorer members of the dominant caste who tied their lot to the caste system rather than to their consciences.” From our vantage point of privilege, we must call out for reconciliation and a repair of that breach. The verdict is one step in the right direction.
As Nazis brutalized Jews 80 years ago, I imagine the killing of George Floyd taking place on a street in Berlin during WWII with a Gestapo Jackboot on the neck of a Jew. The major difference today is that we are more vigilant, more courageous to confront the bigots and we have phones that take video, so that no heinous deed like this goes unrecorded. German citizens turned away as Jews were assaulted by the Gestapo. We rightly criticize them for their indifference and fear. But “Never again,” means never again, not just for Jews but for all oppressed people. We must continue to confront hatred wherever we see it and work with others to bridge the divide threatening to destroy the values we hold dear as well as our beloved country.
The Torah teaches, “Justice, Justice you shall pursue.” Justice is not just for the privileged, it must be for all and especially for those who are oppressed and often have no voice. May we, speak about this with our children, in our homes and on our way to make sure that we in our hearts and through our deeds are committed to reform, justice and peace. If not now, when?
One in a series of columns submitted by members of the Wissahickon Faith Community Association.