Norfolk, CT, is not a diverse town in terms of skin color. But that does not mean we cannot support our Black sisters and brothers during this time of crisis.
Last week, we came together for an impromptu peace rally on the Village Green. We wore masks, maintained social distances, and stood in solidarity with those who are protesting far and wide across the country.
There is nothing like impromptu singing to give you those good, spine-tingling chills that provide a jolt of optimism to the soul. You can listen to snippet of us singing America, the Beautiful here.
Today, we came together again to rally for peace and justice for Black Lives.
We stood in solidarity with our Black sisters and brothers. We said the names George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We professed no justice, no peace. We then marched to Town Hall and knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
If you haven’t already participated in a Black Lives Matter event, I would encourage you to set a timer for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and then kneel wherever you are.
Now imagine killing someone as you do it.
Eight minutes and 46 seconds of actual killing.
It’s a long time to torture someone to death.
To hear someone plead that they can’t breathe.
Eight minutes and 46 seconds of kneeling in silence with others broke my heart for every Black person who has to suffer this kind of collective inhumanity.
We then ended with the Reverend Erick Olsen of Norfolk Church of Christ asking us to make four commitments to supporting Black Lives Matter:
I am committed to supporting Black Lives Matter until we see systemic change. I’m not sure what that looks like in the long-term, but in the short-term I am supporting Black authors by buying their books and some of my friends and I are forming a book club to read the works of Black authors. We’re starting with Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes.
Our Norfolk event today was sobering and sad, and we remained peaceful. Being a small town of 1600+ people, it’s easy for us to maintain peace during these events. However, that’s not the case for many of the peace rallies throughout the country this past week and beyond.
For people who may be struggling with the violence that sometimes erupts during the protests, I urge you to remember three important points. The first comes from my k-12 education, the second comes from my doctoral studies in psychology, and the third comes from my life-long spiritual education.
- One of the seminal events in the formation of the United States involved looting and protesting when frustrated American colonists dumped 342 chests of tea in the Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773. In today’s dollars, that’s the equivalent of $1.7 million of damage. If you enjoy the freedom that comes with our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, then you accept that there are ideals worth fighting for, and sometimes that fight becomes destructive.
- We are not as in control of our thoughts as we think we are. Behavior is led by the brain. And the brain is easily influenced by the release of neurotransmitters. When we are in situations of heightened insecurity, fear, anxiety, etc., the brain releases chemicals that push us into flight or fight mode. Sometimes, we fight. Add a group mentality into the mix and you have a perfect storm for rioting.
- Jesus, himself, was a rioter. In all four of the Gospels, he felt so much rage at merchants and money changers in the temple that he cast them all out, dumped out their money, and upturned their tables. Also, remember that when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus to put him to death, Simon Peter drew out his sword and cut off one of the guard’s ears. When we are angry or afraid, we do not act as we normally would.
I make these points to say that while I do not ever wish for violence to descend on our country (or anywhere for that matter), I understand why it does. If I couldn’t breathe, I would be clawing and fighting with whoever was holding me down.
I stand with Black Lives Matter. I hope you do too.