I want to address the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, the shooting of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Metro Police Department officers who entered her apartment on March 13, and the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased down, shot, and killed by a retired police officer and his son while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23. These three deaths should be more than reason enough for anger and change, but we all know the righteous anger being voiced by Black communities and others across this country is not the result of these three brutal acts, but the epidemic of murders of Black men and women going back months, years, decades and centuries.
While many of us have been reluctant to leave our homes these last few weeks and months because of the danger the COVID-19 poses to our personal health, our Black friends, neighbors and colleagues have also lived with the frightening reality, faced each and every day, that they and those they love, especially their fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, could be attacked and even killed at any time in any place even in their own homes, by the very people who are charged with “serving and protecting them.”
Evelyn Thomas Allen, Director of CCS’ Village Spirit Center for Community Change & Healing, who has spent her whole life and career fighting for equality and against racism, wrote me a powerful email. She called out “the insidious and evil undercurrent of racist intent that is constantly maneuvering behind the scenes to maintain the status quo of perceived white supremacy by continuing to devalue Black lives.” And she quoted Michelle Obama to put into words some of what she has been feeling, “…I am exhausted by a heartbreak that never seems to stop.”
These senseless and brutal murders are the product of a criminal justice system deeply infected with systemic institutionalized racism and supported by the white supremacy conviction. We know this deeply rooted pandemic virus of racism infects all our institutions – education, economic, religious, health care, government and more. We have seen this play out during the COVID-19 pandemic in the disproportionate number of infections and deaths in Black, Latino and Native American communities.
I am grateful and heartened to see that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Seattle Archbishop Paul Etienne and other religious leaders have issued powerful statements condemning the murder of George Floyd and racist violence. CCS/CHS has worked in partnership for many years with communities of color to support them in their efforts to invest in and support their own congregations, organizations, businesses and institutions. But we can, and must, do more.
I also want you to know I am grateful for and proud to echo the recent words Bill Hallerman, CCS King County Agency Director, who said so eloquently to his staff, “We must take bolder action together and be a stronger voice and we will.”
That is our promise to all of you. We will take bolder action together to fight white supremacy and end systemic institutional racism, and we will be a stronger voice to call for equity, respect and safety for our Black sisters and brothers, and all communities of color.