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  • Reverend James Squire

The Death of George Floyd, Personal and Institutional Racism A Way Forward Through the Turbulence

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

I think there are specific things that we should be doing to move forward as a nation. Flowery language will not change a thing. Specific language will.

Adopt the Stanford Rule. There was a study done at Stanford University. Teachers were told that a gifted group of students (Group A) were academically challenged. In another group, teachers were told that an academically challenged group (Group B) were gifted. Group A performed at a low level, and Group B performed much higher than expected. How people are seen is what they become. Whoever you see as your enemy will become your enemy and whoever you see as your friend will become your friend. Change how you see “the other”.

The Golden Rule has been absent. Do for others as you would want them to do for you.

This is what love and justice look like. What Specific gestures reflect those two pillars of ethics in our lives.

Empathy counts. Regard everyone you encounter as though they are a member of your family or the human family. Think this is impossible? No. If you repeat empathetic behavior over and over (Habit of the Heart), you will begin seeing people that way. Perhaps Aristotle’s great thought gift to us was this idea.

All anger is based in a failed expectation. Get clear expectations from the protestors and the agents of the government. Talk about what is doable.

During this past week, police officers were killed or injured. The Head of the Juvenile Law Center in Philly when kneeling with her hands behind her back was approached by a police officer who sprayed her directly in her face with pepper spray. During another TV moment where a member of the press was filming the protest, a policeman went out of his way to knock the person down in a violent fashion. This reflects a very small number of police. Task forces are fine, but it would be preferable to do a better job of screening applicants and to train police officers in de-escalation techniques. Derek Chauvin had 18 complaints against him that were based in prior offenses while he remained on the force. The police union needs to buy into this on the front end of hiring decisions. Unions can work for or against the good.

The debate this week about punishment for Chauvin and the other officers who were present and did not intervene is a source of anger. Some want Lex Talionis which doesn’t mean an eye for an eye or retaliation. It means the punishment needs to fit the crime. Focus on justice. In ethics failure to act to right a wrong is seen as a choice to act in the wrong way. There is no ethical neutral ground.

People pay attention to what you do. People remember how they felt after an exchange. If you were called a “thug” how would that make you feel? You wouldn’t forget it. If you were a police officer risking your life on a daily basis, and someone called you a killer, how would you feel. You certainly would not forget it. No one wants to be dominated. But let’s consider the looters. There is a saying in group dynamics that crowds make good intentioned people, such as the peaceful protesters, better and bad intentioned people, such as the looters, worse. The gap between the rich and poor in our nation is greater than any other time in history. This gap plus the pandemic emphasized awareness of racism, classism, and Covid 19 drove the looters to unlawful actions. They knew what they were doing was wrong.

Unlike some of the past marches and protests after the taking of black lives, this one feels much different. The words that come quickly to mind are “pay me now or pay me later.” We are running out of “later”.

You don’t die the day that your heart stops. You die the day when you refuse to do the right thing.

Don’t hold up a bible for all the see. Hold it in your heart for all you do!

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