As we approach this time of Thanksgiving in this country, I can’t help but feel disheartened. I think about all of the people we’ve come to know in the past year and a half who won’t be able to celebrate this special time with family and friends. The names of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Daunte Wright and so many others come to mind. Lives snuffed out by the injustices of those sworn to protect us.
While their voices are silent, thousands across this country have spoken for them. Peaceful marches from one coast to the other, pleading for justice. So many times, we’ve seen those peaceful marches end in bloodshed, and lives have forever changed because people refuse to see the otherness of the other.
We shake our heads in disbelief as 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse walks as a free man today, found not guilty of the murders of two men shot to death last year while marching in Kenosha, Wisconsin. These men were taking part in a peaceful demonstration over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. Armed with an illegally acquired military-style combat weapon, Mr. Rittenhouse took it upon himself to act as vigilante.
This case represents the recklessness our nation faces as more and more people take it upon themselves to act as law and order. Guns, purchased illegally, are falling into the hands of irresponsible people with a disregard for human life.
I fear we are headed down a path that we can never return. We have created two systems of justice: one for “us” and one for “them.” I do not believe this is what our Creator had in mind.
Beneath the skin of every individual is a beating heart to pump blood and lungs to take in oxygen. We are all human and we are deserving of respect and dignity. For us to move forward, we must remove the barriers that have kept us apart for centuries. History teaches us time and time again that hatred, war, and anger only lead to more of the same.
We mourn for the families of the two men who died. Last week’s verdict only reopened deep wounds. We pray that God will wrap them in the love that only God provides, easing a pain that never goes away.
It is our prayer that in this verdict, Mr. Rittenhouse will reflect on his actions that night and forge a path that will close the gaps that separate us. We pray that in this time of injustice, the seeds of justice can be planted.
As we enter a time of fellowship with our families during this week, we should indeed go to our knees thanking God for the blessings we have been given. But we should also plead with the Creator to enter the cold hearts of racism, hatred and white supremacy. Warm us with a great light and show us the way forward.
The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)