We are not responsive

CULTURE | Brian Tome | 9 mins

The prophets in the Bible were normal people who came from normal walks of life.

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They spoke words of life and warning, straight from the heart of God. They always arose when the need was greatest. They come out of nowhere and then they recede back into the shadows. There was a type of modern day prophet at the scene of a recent brutal killing in our country. His words are prophetic and we need to hear them.

I just watched the footage out of Minneapolis, documenting the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. Seeing a white man with his knee on the neck of a black man, until that man dies, isn’t just sad. It is maddening. Watching another man keep his back to the offense while staring down the crowd is heartbreaking. The cries from the onlookers are agonizing. The whole scene is deeply disturbing. And I believe every white American should watch it. (The full unedited video here.)

What you will see in that video are four men slowly and willfully overseeing the death of another. Those men are police officers, but they are Americans first, and they represent a percentage of white Americans. We need to take a fresh and sober look at the state of our country.

There is not an adequate phrase to describe how troubling this scene is.

Tragic, astounding, heartbreaking, unjust, abusive, traumatic, evil, satanic… none of those words are descriptive enough. A white officer making a bad decision in a split second when you have to pull your gun is one thing. But intentionally choking out a man with your knee to his neck while your hands are in your pockets over a 10 minute period is inexcusable. Seeing another officer not just refuse to intervene, but actually shield and enable the white perpetrator, is atrocious.

While onlookers try to plead and reason with the police officers to stop applying force, one man is especially vocal and engaged. I don’t know who the black gentlemen is with the shorts and flip flops, but I would like to buy him a beer. He is a true man and a sort of prophet. He did all he could to plead with the offending officer and the enabling officer to stop the killing. Line after line from him is filled with truth. He is the only true man at the scene. He says things that we need to wrestle with when it comes to race relations in America.

“He’s not responsive right now.”

After Floyd can no longer ask for mercy because he is choked out, the officer keeps his knee to the neck. He isn’t responsive to the pleas of Floyd or bystanders, and too few of us are not responsive to the race problem in our country. We hide it, ignore it, or minimize it, which gives our dark and unjust history the power to keep repeating itself.

Those of us who love and honor our police officers may try to justify what has been done. They will talk about the stress of police officers and yada yada yada. Yes, they have a stressful job, and therefore I err on the side of empathy. But the stress of this event was over. You choked out a man over a 10 minute period. Long after your pulse started returning to normal, you stayed in a conquering position and your colleagues enabled it.

Even the paramedics treat Floyd’s limp body like a deer carcass. The man’s pulse is taken, the white paramedic steps over to the ambulance, then casually returns to sloppily throw him onto the gurney.

Is my interpretation of the video flawless? Probably not. But don’t raise all the normal objections that white people do to keep themselves from being moved. Are you responsive right now? Can you see that we have a race problem in our country?

“The man ain’t moved yet.”

Floyd wasn’t moving because he was dying. I’ve never seen someone actually killed on video. It was horrible and I wish I could forget it.

Floyd is subdued and motionless. I have to ask you, have you moved yet? Have you looked at your own racist tendencies? We all have them. Whether you are white or not, there are instinctual things we do and think that promote racism. There are boxes we put people in. There are times we choose the passive path of not responding to injustice in everyday life.

We have to move beyond where we are as people and as a nation. Us versus them will destroy us all. Whether you want to admit it or not, there’s some racism inside you. It’s beyond time to move it into focus and choke it out.

“If we are black, you don’t care.”

This is what the just prophet says to the white police officer as he is getting into his car. The white officer seemingly doesn’t care about black people. And based on how many whites circle the wagons to protect other white people who display racism, this criticism could be leveled against all of us.

Do we care that infant mortality among black babies is double that of white babies? Do we care that African Americans make up 13% of our country’s population, but are 33% of the prison population and make up 42% of the people on death row? Do we care about the vast disparities in education? I’m not asking us to agree on what the solutions are. I’m not asking us to agree on who is to blame. To say all black people are only hapless victims is insulting to thinking people of all races. But can we at least agree that it is justifiable for black people to believe whites don’t care?

Look at your own life. Not your thoughts or internal beliefs, but your actions. Can you say strongly, clearly, and unabashedly, “I care for people who aren’t in my own race?” Would an outsider, observing your life, say the same thing about you?

“You can’t even look at me like a man.”

The only true man at the scene was our prophetic hero in flip flops. Men are protectors and boys are predators. He said everything he could to save a life. He respectfully pleads with the officers. Then gradually ramps up his rhetoric to eventually calling the white officer a “bum” and later questions his manhood. He is doing everything he verbally can to get the knee removed from Floyd’s neck.

I don’t know if there was boyish behavior from Mr. Floyd that initially made him a subject for the police. But I do know that the armed white officer wasn’t protecting a man who is on the ground. I do know that the Asian officer who kept his back turned and enabled the death to occur acted like a boy as well.

I kept asking myself, what would I have done if I was there? Would I have tackled the cop to save a man’s life, putting my own life at risk? I don’t know what I would have done or what the right action would have been. All I know for sure is that there were too few men at the scene and too few men in our world.

“Let him breathe, man. Check his pulse. He is human.”

God has created every skin tone and every person on every corner of this planet. Everyone, regardless of skin tone, is human. Too many people who aren’t white in our country aren’t breathing well. Too many people of darker skin tones in America have a quickened pulse and live with justifiable fears that those of us who are white don’t live with. There are survival skills that a parent has to teach a black child that don’t need to be taught to a white child.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then get outside of your bubble and meet some people who look different than you. Hear their stories. Try to imagine how you would react if there were videos of black cops shooting white people in the back as they fled. Visualize how you would respond seeing someone of a different race putting a knee on the throat of someone who looked like you or a family member.

The prophets in the Bible were sent by God to correct the actions of his people.

We have a prophet in our midst, and we all need to do some deep self-examination that leads to action. Change something about the race story in your life. Make a new friend. Make a phone call. Invest in an area where there is racial disparity. This isn’t only a Minneapolis problem or a police problem. It is an American problem. And we are the solution.

The prophets in the Bible who continually railed against injustice are currently in heaven looking down on our country heartbroken. Let’s do something about it.


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Written by

Brian Tome

Guiding you to the adventurous life you were made for. Adventurer, Author, Senior Pastor of Crossroads Church. More about Brian Tome.

Published on May 27, 2020