On May 25th 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was arrested on a charge of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in Minneapolis. According to the store, the bill was fake and Floyd had refused to return the item he purchased when challenged. He died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes during the arrest. Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street, while two other officers further restrained him and a fourth prevented onlookers from intervening. On the video footage, George Floyd is heard repeatedly saying "I can’t breathe". For the last three of those minutes Floyd was motionless and had no pulse, but officers made no attempt to revive him. He is pronounced dead later in hospital.
Many people in America and beyond feel the police and the justice system treat black people unfairly compared to how they treat white people (for example, African-Americans are five times more likely to be sent to jail than white Americans).
The killing of George Floyd was widely regarded as being racially motivated and sparked mass protests, a number of them violent, across the world. Under the banner of "Black Lives Matter" people were voicing their anger, not only at the killing of George Floyd but against the racism and injustice that is still prevalent in society and which terrible incidents like this bring into sharp focus.
In a joint statement in response to the death of George Floyd, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, said that everyone needed to play their part in eradicating racism. They said:
“Recent events in the United States of America have once again drawn public attention to the ongoing evil of white supremacy. Systemic racism continues to cause incalculable harm across the world. Our hearts weep for the suffering caused – for those who have lost their lives, those who have experienced persecution, those who live in fear.
God’s justice and love for all creation demands that this evil is properly confronted and tackled.
Let us be clear: racism is an affront to God. It is born out of ignorance, and must be eradicated. We all bear the responsibility and must play our part to eliminate this scourge on humanity."
President Donald Trump in a speech about the USA economy shortly after George Floyd's death said:
"Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that's happening for our country. This is a great day for him. It's a great day for everybody."
The artist Banksy on revealing a new artwork inspired by the death of George Floyd said: “At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem. It’s mine. People of colour are being failed by the system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. This faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t – no-one will let them in the apartment upstairs."
Racism prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.
White privilege (or white skin privilege) refers to societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people in some societies, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.
Tokenism is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.
Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality, e.g “why is it always about race” "In my opinion, I don't think that they were being racist, I think..." "If you protested more peacefully, more people will listen to you"
"So God created mankind in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" Genesis 1:27
"The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" 1 Samuel 16: 7
"Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen? To lose the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke… If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday" Isaiah 58: 6 + 9-10
"Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:1-2
"So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality." Acts 10:34
"So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith. For all of you who were baptised I Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3: 26- 28
In introducing this topic to your group you may find the following approach helpful:
Listening: this is about creating space for those who have been subjected to racism to share their experience
Learning: this is about being proactive about educating ourselves about the issues around racism in society
Looking: this is about looking into ourselves to see if our attitudes to people of other races are Godly and about looking for opportunities to actively fight racism and injustice.
Energize has lots of resources that can help you explore the issue of racism with your group (see below). We have also curated external resources that can help you and your young people gain a better understanding of the issues and our responses to them (also see below)
The Wonderful Youth series aims to help youth groups explore and celebrate some of the historical and current unique contributions from people of colour.
In August 2017 many historical issues came to the fore when Charlottesville, Virginia acted upon its plan to remove a Confederate monument - a statue to Robert E. Lee.
’12 Years a Slave’ is a powerful true story, graphically depicting the horrors of slavery. It shows both the best and worst of the human heart and repeatedly (though not heavy-handedly) suggests that God is the key to the best. This section gives a chance for young people to explore some of those aspects by looking at five themes that the film raises.
Marvel's Black Panther movie was widely regarded as breaking the mold of superhero movies in terms of its representation of people of colour.
‘Zootropolis’ is a great, ‘feel good’, family film set in a fun menagerie metropolis of weird and wonderful animals. However, like all the best films, it reflects back something of what it means to be human, especially speaking to the diversity and prejudice which we find in our modern, multicultural societies.
A poignant drama inspired by a true story about a mixed-race woman who seeks love and justice amidst racism.
The Help is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett and explores issues of racial discrimination in a racial hotspot (Mississippi) during the Civil Rights era (1960s) in the United States.
‘Crash' sets out to explore intolerance, especially the prejudice and presumptions that exist about people from other cultures and races. It raises questions about the increasing fear of strangers in our society. In doing so, it doesn't provide neat answers to the questions it raises, but instead leaves the audience to think about it themselves.
Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae gives his reaction to the death of George Floyd.
When We Are Alone by David Alexander Robertson. Illustrated by Julie Flett.
When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother's garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength.
Something Happened in My Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard. Illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin.
Emma and Josh heard that something happened in their town. A black man was shot by the police. "Why did the police shoot that man?" "Can police go to jail?" Something Happened in Our Town follows two families - one white, one black - as they discuss a police shooting of a black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives
Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family's new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren't treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws . . .
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram Kendi
In this important and compelling young readers adaptation of his National Book Award-winning title, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, writing with award-winning author Jason Reynolds, chronicles the story of anti-black, racist ideas over the course of American history.
I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
In a time when nearly every institution (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claims to value diversity in its mission statement, Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice.
Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age seven, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion.
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi
In this rousing and deeply empathetic book, Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option: until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem.
Using his extraordinary gifts as a teacher and story-teller, Kendi helps us recognise that everyone is, at times, complicit in racism whether they realise it or not, and by describing with moving humility his own journey from racism to antiracism, he shows us how instead to be a force for good.
We Need To Talk About Race: Understanding the Black Experience in White Majority Churches by Ben Lindsay
From the UK Church’s complicity in the transatlantic slave trade to the whitewashing of Christianity throughout history, the Church has a lot to answer for when it comes to race relations. Christianity has been dubbed the white man’s religion, yet the Bible speaks of an impartial God and shows us a diverse body of believers.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Renni Eddo-Lodge
'Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can't afford to stay silent. This book is an attempt to speak'
The book that sparked a national conversation. Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race is the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today.
White privilege: The myth of a post-racial society by Kalwant Bhopal
Why and how do those from black and minority ethnic communities continue to be marginalised? Bhopal explores how neoliberal policy-making has increased discrimination faced by those from non-white backgrounds. This important book examines the impact of race on wider issues of inequality and difference in society.
Where Do We Go From Here....Chaos or Community? Devotional by Dr Charles Montgomery, Vineyard Columbus. May 29th, 2020.