Published in the Grass Valley Union on June 12, 2020
“In resistance people live most humanly. No to death means yes to life.”” William Stringfellow
Our organization, Earth Justice Ministries, is deeply committed to the principle and practice of nonviolence. We promote disciplined nonviolence in word and deed in our personal lives and organized, cooperative nonviolent action in public demonstrations.
Nevertheless, we recognize the violence and racist discrimination inherent in the current system. We are not surprised by the uprisings that are taking place in various cities, including the solidarity demonstrations in Nevada City and Grass Valley, following the violent killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis this past week. While looting took place early in the protests, it is important to remember that “protestors are not looting. Looters are looting. Protestors are protesting.” And as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Looting is the language of the unheard.”
As for property destruction in black communities, we know that at least one instance of property destruction was initiated by an out-of-uniform policeman and in several instances by white supremacists. We are outraged by violent police crackdowns on peaceful protesters and encouraged by the positive responses by some police departments and local governments. We understand how the grief and outrage that communities treated unjustly have experienced for far too long, and we align ourselves with their struggle. We, too, abhor systemic racism and the ongoing killing of black men and women by police and others, which is the issue that countless communities are reacting to.
In times of great social evil, the only way to maintain our humanity and our integrity is to live in resistance to systems of domination that bring injustice and death. This is such a time, when human beings are targeted, treated cruelly, and killed because of their race.
Who was George Floyd? It is important to say his name. The point of Black Lives Matter is that people who are black or brown are not expendable. George Floyd was a person, known by many as “Big George.” He had gifts, hopes, dreams, and people who loved him. He played a role in his community. A friend writes, “He was the man that helped me drag a baptismal pool to the court in the projects so we could baptize dudes in the hood. The man that put down chairs and helped put down and clean up chairs at outreaches in the hood. A man of peace. A good man.”
Many people, especially those of us who are white and privileged, don’t want to believe that white supremacy and systemic racism are real in the United States. “White fragility” makes it hard to face, especially if we feel accused of racism or of being complicit in a system of racist discrimination. The ways we recount US history, even in our history books, tends to soften or leave out the blatant injustice upon which our country was founded and upon which was built the wealth of the nation: colonialism, genocide, slavery, economic injustice, violence against women, oppression of workers, scapegoating of immigrants, projection of military power, and the exploitation and destruction of the natural world. Whatever gains made for the ideals ascribed to our nation’s founding documents have come only through the struggles of people joining together to demand justice, peace, and environmental care. These struggles are as important today as ever, perhaps more so in the current resurgence of racist violence and its encouragement from the top of our government hierarchy.
The only way to face the atrocities taking place in the United States today, with our tax dollars and in our names, is to stand in peaceful solidarity with the victims of unjust policies, rise in nonviolent resistance, and speak out for what is right. To accept the reality of such things without taking a stand is to side with the oppressors and be diminished as human beings. Still, many choose the relative comfort of denial and apathy over the discomfort of being at odds with the system from which many of us benefit.
We are convinced that the spirit of love that is present at the heart of the universe is at work even now through all who foster peaceful and just relationships and seek the common good.
The Board of Directors of Earth Justice Ministries.