Black Lives Matter:
In Memory of George Floyd
by Nadine Hoover
Black lives matter. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black man, did not just die; he was killed in Minnesota by Derek Chauvin, one of four white police officers present. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey denounced the officers, “Being black in America should not be a death sentence... I believe what I saw and what I saw is wrong on every level.” Only after public outcry was Chauvin arrested and charged with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter.
We abide by laws, but in the words of Justice Marvic Leonen, “A lawful grant of power to a person doesn’t guarantee that it is always wisely used. At times, what is called legal may not be just. Our collective duty is to make sure the legal will also be just.” A free, just society relies on citizens to protest injustice, to assert that brutality and disrespect of life is wrong and must stop. Societies that cannot hear such critique or silence such voices are corrupt.
As a Quaker, I see every person as a child of God and oppose any form of prejudice or violence. Black men, women, and children should feel loved and respected, not afraid to walk the streets or go about their daily business.
Gandhi explained, “Non-cooperation and civil disobedience become a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt. And a citizen who barters with such a state shares in its corruption and lawlessness.” Black men, women, and children lose their lives to prejudice and injustice; this must stop.
To abolish prejudice, we must abolish privilege. Prejudice and privilege are two sides of the same cycle of oppression. Privilege is structural or legal restriction of advantage to some people at the exclusion of others and permission to use advantage with impunity. Privilege is not a pleasure, blessing, or honor; it is unnecessary, unfair power used with impunity that causes harm, and is immoral.
Development takes time, so some people gain advantage over others. A just society nurtures everyone’s development, while holding the advantaged accountable. Abolishing privilege does not negate development, it ensures equity in developing knowledge, skills, health, relationships, talents, and so forth.
The time has come to separate business and state. This may seem as impossible as separation of church and state felt in their time. Governance should attend to the public good, not to accumulating wealth and protecting it with impunity.
Good intentions are important, but not enough. Besides friendship, charity, and celebration of Juneteenth commemorating the end of slavery, our government must change. Institutions of education, healthcare, food supply, housing, and law must work for equitable outcomes for everyone and restore the natural world.
Faith is a belief so strong it orders our actions. Voices covered by the few who control media often express faith in military and financial might over the power of love, conscience, and integrity. We must each turn off corporate media, find our faith, and raise our voices for the power of love, conscience, mercy, and justice.
We must demilitarize civil society; appreciate direct service providers and not call them “frontline” workers; stop clothing police with heavy paramilitary gear while doctors in our hospitals wear garbage bags as protective gear.
State-sanctioned violence has no place in a peaceful, just society. Hold public officials accountable for acts of violence and standards of integrity. When law itself is corrupt or used as a weapon, then law enforcement is corrupt. When we use police to protect privilege, we set up a prejudiced society.
To achieve justice, the very fabric of society must change. Rid the legal system of falsehoods. Legalizing falsehoods corrupts society and subverts integrity. Corporations are not “persons” and do not deserve the rights of persons. Corporate charters are not “contracts,” they are powers granted and supervised by the legislature on behalf of the people. In the United States, courts settle contractual disputes; government cannot intervene in contracts. To consider charters contracts removes accountability, legislative and judicial, and fuels privilege and its abuse.
By law, corporations are mercenary; they must put short-term financial gain above any other consideration. Corporations subvert institutions of education, healthcare, food supply, housing, and law for wealth accumulation, and no longer represent us.
Human beings are each different, yet we are united in our humanity. Grounded in our humanity, we welcome diversity with appreciation and curiosity. Genuine differences do not divide, they teach and enliven. Brainwashing and propaganda divide, polarize, and form sides of “us” and “them” engineered to exploit and manipulate. That which unites is trustworthy; that which divides is not.
The challenges to a peaceful, just society are deeply rooted in our faith and social structures. Historic changes will disrupt our own lives, not just change others. Acknowledge the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as a crime against humanity and address the repercussions, do not walk out of official meetings when the topic arises. Shift from extraction to replacement pricing and hold producers accountable for restoration. Remove funds from corporate banking to invest in local credit unions and enterprises. Terminate corporate charters as a failed public experiment. Develop local citizen associations to secure basic needs and citizen contracts to hold larger producers accountable in court, similar to the Creative Commons licenses.
We will not make peace with each other, until we make peace with the earth. Oppression will not end until we oppose public-sanctioned violence and exploitation. We must each find practical ways to end prejudice and privilege in our hearts, aspirations, daily lives, and occupations. At the same time, we must listen to the oppressed and marginalized with respect and take their perspectives into account. They often see how the system operates in ways that privilege obscures. Only together will we discover how to end public-sanctioned violence and exploitation that gives rise to oppression. Then we can divest from war, violence, and brutality and invest in peace, nonviolence, and justice.