There has been so much news this week to break the heart. More than 100,000 people in our country have been confirmed as dying of COVID 19. We know there are many more who simply died without ever having been tested.
We have unemployment rates comparable to those experienced during the Depression.
Those are all big numbers to absorb, unless it was someone you loved who lost their life, or their job, unless it is you, or your relative or friend trying to figure out how to manage through these days. Then it hits home This is not about numbers, it is about people, people who had plans and hopes as we have plans and hopes. And the reality aches.
There is another big topic we have been discussing for years — racism in our country and the social structures that support it. It is big topic, often is seems, too big to absorb.
And we learn of the police in Minneapolis kneeling on the neck of handcuffed George Floyd. The officer knelt on his neck while Floyd told him “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” George Floyd, a black American mercilessly killed by police who are charged with upholding the law. And it is no longer a big amorphous “race problem” in America, but a killing of a real person who had plans and dreams. The reality aches.
Maybe, we thought, naively, that the pandemic would be the great equalizer — that everyone was vulnerable to getting sick. It would be clear that we are in this together. But the burdens of COVID 19 are falling largely on communities of color. Those communities are disproportionately in the service sector, in jobs that cannot be converted to work remotely, and therefore more likely to be unemployed. Those communities are underserved and experiencing high levels of underlying medical conditions as a result of pollution, low incomes, limited access to healthy food choices and affordable medical services. The more densely populated communities create environments in which disease spreads more easily.
Let the tragedy of George Floyd put the human face on the historic tragedy of our nation. Let us feel the ache, the outrage, and the horror we would feel if it had happened to our brother or son, or cousin. Because that is who he is, our brother, our son, our cousin. Our religious tradition is steeped in that truth.
It is a spiritual truth we deny at our peril. Our teacher Jesus said, “Whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.” And, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
We are in this together. We always have been. May we never forget.
With tender heart and blessings for all,