America Burning

There are race riots in the streets of America. Again. We have seen this before. Does anything ever change?

As an older white Canadian, I doubt I can fully understand the challenges faced by young Black American males. I grew up with the idea that the police were my friends, not the people most likely to kill me.

Violence has erupted in the United States once more after an unarmed black man, George Floyd was killed by police last week, his dying pleas captured on video. My initial reaction to the news story was “not again!”

When are white American police officers going to learn that deadly force should not be the first option when confronting a suspect? Or at any time unless it is a life or death situation.

This time at least the police officers involved were immediately fired, and charges laid. That is an improvement over the usual delay. That did not prevent the riots though.

Which is not surprising given the history of police actions against the Black community. Such deaths should be so rare as to be unusual. In America they seem to be the norm.

How are Americans going to put an end to systemic racism? Is it even possible?

You could argue that rioting and destroying property in response to police actions does not help. You would be right, but right and wrong don’t have much impact on rage. When justice is absent, and there appears no hope it will ever be present, tearing down the system my seem to be the only logical response.

As peaceful daytime protests seem to inevitably turn into violent nights, solutions seem so far away.  Fire, death and destruction seem somehow comforting when life is hopeless.

So where does the US go from here? Can there be racial reconciliation? Systemic change? Is there a real desire to deal with injustice, even if it is painful? Or are people too entrenched in the status quo?

News stories I was reading yesterday had the President threatening to send in the army to restore order. Just like in any banana republic or Middle East dictatorship where the government is afraid of the people and has no compunctions about killing its own citizens to remain in power.

What sort of message does that send? Is this America, or some fascist/racist imitator?

Who can press the pause button, assuming Americans really want to end the racial divide? Where is the Martin Luther King Jr. of this generation, who can win the respect of both Black and White and lead the movement to true reconciliation?

Do the Christian churches have enough moral authority left in a post-Christian civilization to be agents of healing? Or have they abandoned their prophetic calling, become too identified with one political faction or another?

One thing is certain: unless there is a real commitment to change on all sides of the American racial spectrum, more young African-American men are going to die at the hands of police. More cities will burn.

When there is no hope, there is no reason not to go out in flames.


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