By Rev. Dr. Ronald Bell Jr.
My city is burning, but not in the way the media is showing. Did you see the fire, not the one burning down the precinct but the one burning in the hearts of the wounded in my community? The grieving mothers and grandmothers recalling the voice of our dear brother George Floyd, as he called for his mother, while taking his last breath. The burning of the hearts of we who wept, when our governmental leaders refused to arrest the murderer of this wicked and inhumane deed. Did you see that fire?
Did you see the shattered glass, not those easily replaceable windows scattered in pieces on the ground under our feet? Instead, the shattered glass of expectation for justice, the shattered glass of respect for our humanity that our murderers continue to display, the shattered glass of hope as we watched our brother’s body lay, lifeless under the knee of his murderer. Did you see that glass shatter?
You must have witnessed the looting? Not the ones the cameras and social media love to exploit, but instead the looting of our human rights. The looting of our constitutional rights as citizens. The looting of our communities for decades by corporations for greed. Did you see that looting?
I think you were so busy looking for a riot that you missed the gathering of the grieving. I think you were so busy looking for looters that you missed the lament and heartbreak of a community. I think you were so busy looking for trouble that you missed the tragedy of systemic racialized trauma on the bodies of black and brown people. Tonight, tomorrow, and even the next day I beg of you, look again. Look again.
I do not have a scripture for you. I do not have a perfectly curated historical epitaph from a giant like King or Martin to impress you with. Instead, I have a request for you. Look again. See the trauma and pain of my community. See the anger and anxiety. See the tiredness. Look again.
Once you have really looked upon our sorrow, once you have put away your hashtags, retweets and emojis, once you have set with weight of our sorrow do not look away, for what you will discover is my city has become your city. My pain has become your pain. That young person protesting has become your young person grieving, that kid looting has become your kid weeping. Do not look away. For then and only then will you be truly with us! Do not look away.
Rev. Dr. Ronald Bell Jr. is lead pastor at Camphor Memorial UMC in St. Paul.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church