In recent days and weeks this nation has seen something more horrible than a virus that
takes the breath away. We have seen a trifecta of racism caught
on video that takes away the breath of conscience and decency. We cannot attribute it to just
ignorant racists in the south-it goes wider and apparently deeper than that. We must examine
our souls and our actions to stop this virus and not cover our faces from it.
Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:38), and to do
unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12). If there is no sign of love and
justice in our hearts, then there is reason to at least question whether Christ is in our hearts and
whether we are people of God.
The Virginia Council of Churches (VCC) makes this statement on ending systemic racism;
VCC is comprised of approximately 5,600 churches and 18 denominations. One of the groups
within the VCC is the Anti-Racism Pro-Conciliation Team (ARPCT). This is the voice of the
ARPCT speaking out about racist acts in our midst TODAY.
The nation had barely absorbed the news and video of Ahmed Arbery’s murder resulting
from being black while jogging in a white neighborhood when our hearts were again wrenched
by racial violence in two other disparate locations in our nation.
Tuesday, May 26, 2020, the whole United States witnessed a horrifying video of a
Minneapolis Police Officer murdering a black man during an arrest for suspected check forgery,
clearly, a non-violent crime. Allegedly, the murdered victim, George Floyd, initially resisted
arrest, but when the video of the murder begins, Mr. Floyd is handcuffed and laying on the
ground, face on the pavement, and an officer’s knee pressing on his neck. At that point, Mr.
Floyd is in no position to resist and doesn’t resist. Mr. Floyd begs for help, says he can’t
breathe, begs not to die, asks for his mama – all with no reaction from the officer or release of
pressure on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Mr. Floyd’s cries for help become more garbled until he is
motionless, and most likely lifeless. The crowd watching this occur is closely monitored by one
of the other officers, and no doubt the onlookers did not feel safe to attempt intervention to
prevent Mr. Floyd’s murder. The officer only removes his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck when the
EMT’s arrive and take his motionless body away by ambulance.
We must ask ourselves, what in our human nature allows a police officer to engage in
this behavior without emotion or remorse? What allows three fellow officers to observe and participate in this murder without intervening? Did all four police officers come to the
Minneapolis Police Department with a complete lack of respect for humanity? Did these
officers learn racism after they became police officers? Did they receive training on how to
treat all humanity, their sisters and brothers? Or is it simply that they do not view black
persons as human?
Perhaps, these officers learned a lack of appreciation for the dignity and humanity of
black people from birth. Perhaps their white privilege taught them all their life that they are
superior to black people.
When will we – every person in the United States – acknowledge a heritage of toxic
white privilege, own our racism, and work to dismantle it? When will we learn that all life is
precious regardless of the color of the skin? We all have red blood, and we all need breath to
All four officers were fired. That was a good response. All four officers should have been
arrested the same day for murder and conspiracy to commit murder. White society must show
persons of color that their LIVES DO MATTER!
What would have been the response if the colors were reversed – a black officer had his
knee on the neck of a white man who died after an arrest for a non-violent crime? Would the
volume of outrage increase? Likely, yes.
In the middle of trying to wrap our heads around the Minneapolis horror, a white
woman uses her “whiteness” and her “femaleness” to try to have a black man arrested for HER
failure to follow the law! Amy Cooper was walking her dog off leash in the part of NYC Central
Park where dogs must be on a leash because it is a bird sanctuary. Many avid bird watchers go
there to photograph and enjoy birds. Mr. Cooper, black and no relation to Amy Cooper, was
there to bird watch and asked Amy Cooper to leash her dog. Amy Cooper responded
aggressively, so Mr. Cooper began to record the interaction. Amy Cooper shouted at Mr.
Cooper not to record her and that she was going to call the police. (Meanwhile, the video
shows Amy Cooper holding her dog by the collar with his front feet off the ground, choking). It
can be assumed that Amy thought the police would take her side. Amy Cooper called the
police and in a highly distressed voice falsely accused Mr. Cooper of threatening her and her
Fortunately, Mr. Cooper filmed the entire encounter or he might have been the victim of
overzealous policing against a black man in the protection of the white woman. White
women’s whiteness and their gender have been used to imprison and lynch black men for 400
years. Ms. Cooper was clearly harking back to the days when white men lynched black men to
preserve the supposed purity and honor of white women. Sadly, Ms. Cooper was a woman
without honor or honesty. What would cause her immediate reaction to default to aggressive
racism when she was clearly in the wrong, and she was clearly making a false statement to the
police? There was no lynching of Mr. Cooper this time. Instead, Mr. Cooper’s video saved him
and was used to bring the truth to light. Amy Cooper was fired from her lucrative job at
Franklin Templeton, and she returned her dog to the rescue agency.
But what in the world made this woman think of making a false and preposterous racial
allegation about Mr. Cooper when the obvious response to his request to leash her dog should
have been to apologize and put her dog on a leash? Why did she, instead of complying with
the law, decide to make unfounded inflammatory racist allegations? What in her background
made her such a racist? Was it her white privilege? Such actions should not be tolerated. In the scheme of things, perhaps the police
thought this was not a chargeable offense. But because so many racist allegations are false,
Amy Cooper should have been charged with making a false statement to the police. What if
there was no video? How long would it take Mr. Cooper to convince the police, a prosecutor, a
judge, that he did not threaten Amy Cooper? How long might he have been in jail before the
truth won out? Would he have lost his job? His housing? Amy Cooper’s actions were
Shortly before these awful acts, a father and son in Georgia HUNTED a young, black
man, Amaud Arbery, whom they suspected of burglary and killed him, also on video. The
young black man was jogging in a white neighborhood. The father was formerly in law
enforcement and felt entitled to arm himself and hunt down a black man for little more than
being black in a white neighborhood. Here again, the man’s law enforcement brethren and the
prosecuting authorities turned a blind eye to this heinous murder until the public saw the video
and the public outcries became overwhelming. The voices of people of conscience shouting for
justice does matter. We, the VCC ARPC Team call for an end of acts and beliefs of racism. An end to injustice.
We call for all people to treat each other with humanity, dignity and respect. If you need to reexamine your thoughts and actions concerning racism and justice, NOW is the time to do so. Call out racism wherever you see it or hear it, whether it is individual racism, social
racism, structural racism or systemic racism! Let your community know that you will not
tolerate racism in any form! If you are Christian, affirmatively recognize that every human is
God’s creation and worthy of justice and respect. “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters are liars; for those who do
not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.
The commandment we have from God is this: those who love God must love their brothers
and sisters also.” 1 John 4:20-21
Black persons, persons of color, all humans, as God’s creation are all our sisters and
brothers. As followers of Jesus Christ, we must love everyone and treat every human being as
Jesus would. (If you are, or strive to, become anti-racist, please consider making yourself known to
the VCC. Please send an email to [email protected] and provide your name, address, city, email address, or county where you live. VCC ARPCT will contact you with
ways for you to speak out to end racism. We would love to hear from like-minded justice
Virginia Council of Churches, Anti-Racism Pro-Conciliation Team (VCC ARPCT)
Rev. Dr. Norman Vick -Reverend Eric Anspaugh
ARPCT Co-Chairs ARPCT Co-Chairs
Mrs. Allison Cobwell, Rev. Heidi David-Young
Ruling Elder Susanne Hooker Taylor, Rev. Rodney Hunter
Rev. Jeremiah Hurst, Rev. Dr. Ricky Hurst
Rev. Dr. Lilton Marks, Rev. Mario Meléndez
Rev. David Shumate, Mrs. Jennie Waering
Rev. David Whitten, Deacon Charles Williams
Rev. Dr. Rose Wright-Scott
The Rt. Rev. Susan B. Haynes, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia
The Rev. Robert F. Humphrey
Bishop, Virginia Synod, ELCA
Rev. Robert C. Edwards, III, Pastor Bayside Christian United Church of Christ Virginia Beach, VA
Rev. Jeneé Shearin President, Virginia Council of Churches
Statement of the National Council of Churches on Protests Across the Country
Posted June 5, 2020
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, “Peace, peace,”
when there is no peace.
-Jeremiah 6:14, New Revised Standard Version
Washington, DC – June 3, 2020 – The United States is in crisis. Racism has again driven people to the streets to demand an end to the destructive and deadly consequences of racial hatred, white supremacy and unconscious bias. As we consider events of the last few months, we know that our nation is in desperate need of healing, hope and justice for the senseless deaths of unarmed Black people at the hands of law enforcement and their surrogates.
In the wake of the murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, and Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, GA, as well as countless others that have not made the news; the National Council of Churches USA calls upon all people of faith to turn to the task of ending racism with increased fervor and commitment before more lives, and the soul of the nation, are lost.
It does not escape our attention that this crisis of racism intensifies just as we face another crisis, the coronavirus global pandemic, that has infected millions and taken the lives of more than 105,000 Americans, and over 375,000 people worldwide. This pandemic has amplified disparities already integrated into American systems, particularly health care, education and the economy.
As protesters march through cities across the country, we pray that change is on the horizon. We recognize that non-violent protests have led to many of the changes in our nation that we celebrate today. We also acknowledge that a convergence of stressors, bad actors, and other factors have led to demonstrations becoming disorderly and unsafe, further escalating tensions. We urge all protesters to persist in their efforts for non-violent demonstrations to ensure the safety and well-being of all who are lifting their voices to stand for justice.
Additionally, the NCC must join the outcry by our member denominations for the troubling display in the nation’s capital on June 1. It can never be acceptable for the military to be deployed at the order of the U.S. Attorney General against peaceful protesters to violently move them out of the way using tear gas, rubber bullets and other weaponry in order for any elected official, much less the U.S. President, to take a blasphemous photo-op with a bible in front of a church. This was spiritual manipulation and a disgraceful mockery of our sacred text on sacred ground.
At times like these, society looks to public officials to lead, console and unite. Instead, today we see and hear from some government leaders only what leads to hostility and more division. Rather than calm tensions, they seem to be provoking them. But, the church is not closed, absent or silent. We ask church leaders to fill in the gaps of leadership that our nation is now experiencing. We know what it means for the brokenhearted to be healed, for those who mourn to be comforted and for those who are bound to be set free. This is a moment for us as the Church to stand as witnesses—to be light and salt to our country and the world. And, we urge Christian leaders throughout our nation to stand in the gap in leadership, to be available to those who are hurting and to be diligent in pursuing peace, advocating for justice, and helping to heal our nation.