On May 25, 2020, Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, murdered George Floyd, a 46-year old black man. A 17 year old woman, filmed the incident on her cell phone. This footage sparked a wave of protests throughout the United States and the world, affirming that Black Lives Matter and demanding an end to systemic police brutality against black Americans. Floyd’s murder was a continuation of systemic violence perpetrated by white Americans towards black Americans for centuries. As Rev. Christine Dance said in her sermon to BBUUC on June 7, 2020, “we can be angry, but we should not be surprised.” On April 20 a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. There were so many diverse and varied emotional responses to the verdict. I am grateful for the words of Carey McDonald, Executive Vice President of the UUA, at the UU post-verdict vigil. Here are the words he shared in his chalice lighting:
“We light this chalice in grief that George Floyd was murdered by one individual, yes, and by a brutal system of policing rooted in white supremacy. The grief that nothing can bring him back. The grief at the thousands of names and deaths at the hands of police in this country.
We light this chalice in relief for a verdict that is one piece of accountability for his murder. We light this chalice in rage at hundreds of years of our oppression, of commodifying black and brown bodies, disabled and poor and queer and immigrant bodies, oppression that has not stopped and which we feel personally and intimately. We light this chalice in rage at hundreds of years. We light this chalice in pride for the way the community has showed up, has organized to transform and undo this system of policing to make sure that George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Tony McDade so many others have not died in vain. We light this chalice in uncertainty about whether the changes we need will come, sick with worry about what might happen next, when the next vigil will need be. We light this chalice in remembrance for all who have given so much to the struggle for Liberation, given from their deepest hearts and biggest hopes for a different reality for our kids and grandkids. We light this chalice in hope that we can keep us safe and in the fire of our commitment to liberation, justice, compassion and a world where no one is outside the circle of love, no one is disposable and all are free. Blessed be, and welcome.”
As I read these words again, I pause, and close my eyes and take a deep breath. There is so much to hold. Grief, rage, relief, and more. I am holding the brokenness and the beauty of this world. I am holding the enormity of the pain of white supremacy. I am holding awe at the power of people to come together and work for change. In the midst of all of this, I am grateful for the community of Unitarian Universalists. I am grateful for people engaged together in the spiritual journey of dismantling racism in ourselves and our world. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of activism for Black Lives Matter that is grounded in spirituality and ritual. I am grateful to be a part of a community of people who understand that we all have work to do in healing from the trauma of white supremacy. I want you all to know that I support and affirm the many ways you are working for racial justice at BBUUC. I am committed to supporting you in this work. I look forward to continued conversation and dialogue about how we as a community can be a part of the work to dismantle racism and help create “a world where no one is outside the circle of love, no one is disposable and all are free.”