We Need a Cure
June 1, 2020
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As many of you know, I signed on to an open letter from bishops of the ELCA condemning racism and white supremacy that was released this past Friday. Rather than follow that letter with a letter of my own, I am passing along to you the letter that Bishop Yehiel Curry (Metropolitan Chicago Synod) sent out this morning, with his permission. He speaks more eloquently than I could at this time.
God’s peace to you,
Bishop John Roth
Dear Partners in Ministry,
I am grateful for those of you who have reached out to me recently, and those who have encouraged me to write a statement about the events taking place in this country. As one of two African Descent male bishops in the ELCA, that is what I am doing here. Please know that as I write, my emotions are still raw, painful, and constantly changing. But here is what I have right now.
On the morning of Tuesday, May 26, 2020, I saw the headline shared by Bishop Pat Davenport in a Facebook post, and I cried. Skipping over the commentary, I clicked on the link. Immediately, I became fixated on the posture, the eyes, and the sounds of George Floyd as life began to leave his body and his face began to change. I moved my cell phone closer to my face and I continued to stare. I thought of myself, my brothers, my nephews…
I saw all of us in this, our neighbor, George Floyd. What’s next? I wondered. Will racial profiling lead to an officer’s knee on my neck? As George stopped breathing, I paused the video. I closed my eyes, and I cried some more. I cried for George Floyd. I cried for Ahmaud Arbery. I cried for Breonna Taylor, and for Dreasjon (Sean) Reed. I cried for Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. I cried for Walter Scott and Laquan McDonald. I cried for all of these children of God, and for the countless others, known and unknown, who have fallen at the hands of racism and brutality.
As my tears slowed, I felt compelled to sit in the tension of the moment. Hoping against hope, I restarted the video—looking for some sort of resurrection. Instead, I saw Officer Chauvin’s knee. His demeanor was so cavalier, and he appeared to be so comfortable, that one might mistakenly think that this act of murder was normal or routine.
I shared the video with the hashtag #ImTiredOfThis and turned off my phone. I was not okay! And yet, like all among us who experience racism, micro-aggressions, over-policing, and harassment every day, I quietly packed away this experience and returned to my life routines. But the things we pack away can’t stay packed away forever.
Within communities impacted the most by both police brutality and COVID-19, suppressed trauma has been transformed into direct action and civil disobedience, empowering communities to organize for justice throughout Metropolitan Chicago, Minneapolis, and the United States.
Unfortunately, some suppressed traumas have also ignited looting and the destruction of property. Such activity is neither the cure for the pandemic of systemic racism nor the perpetual brutality exercised against Black and Brown bodies, but it is a symptom of these things.
When developing a cure for a disease, doctors, scientists, and specialists of all kinds assemble with one common goal—to find a cure. Distinct from simply treating symptoms, a cure gets at the root of the thing that was causing the symptoms in the first place, so as to eradicate the disease.
Family in Christ, we need a cure. Our siblings are dying. If we choose to remain silent while benefiting from privilege, then we become complicit in that death, ensuring that justice and change will not be achieved.
Social statements are good and fine, but for change, for real and lasting change, we need to be in relationship. We need to come together with a common goal, striving collectively to eradicate racism and injustice in our communities, in the church, and in the world. May it be so, and in the words of 1 John 3:18, may it be so not in word or speech alone, but in action and in truth.
In this season of Pentecost, I pray for the Spirit to fill us all again with a renewed passion for God’s reign of justice and love, and a deepened desire to live out God’s mission in this synod, to proclaim the Gospel, make disciples, and do justice—liberating, life-giving justice—in Jesus’ name.
The Rev. Yehiel Curry
Metropolitan Chicago Synod, ELCA