Joint Statement: National Reform Demanded by the Minnesota Council of Churches and Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.


 “The racism in this country is deeply entrenched in everything
 – especially and including its laws and its legal system”
           The Executive Director of the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC), the Rev. Dr. Curtiss DeYoung, and the Rev. Dr. Iva Carruthers, general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC), said today that unless the systemic issues that are the foundation of racism in this country are addressed, the fallout of the horrific death of George Floyd at the knees of the Minneapolis Police Department will only further erode the illusion of democracy and its catastrophic undoing from within.
           Both DeYoung and Carruthers stressed that the black community has been weary for a long time, as state-sanctioned violence results in few arrests and convictions of police officers. In spite of what seems to be clear evidence of wrongdoing by law enforcement officers substantiated by videos, officers – predominantly white – have walked free, causing deep anger. They note that officers are supported in what they do by a corrupt system, which remains in place. Though there is justified anger levied against the offending officers, it is the system which has to change , they declared.
           DeYoung has been on the streets with the protesters in Minneapolis, where, he said, the intense anger is matched equally with deep grief. In a statement, the MCC asked faith leaders to help address the anger and grief by urging people to respond to the crisis by their presence, by and through protesting, by pushing for prosecution of the officers, and through prayers.
           Quoting scripture, the MCC statement said that the question, “‘How long?’ …is emanating once again from Minneapolis and the rest of the nation with the police killing of George Floyd. He was killed while screaming, ‘Please, I can’t breathe!’”
            “How long will the killing of African Americans by police officers continue?” the statement said. "The brutal attacks on black bodies is not acceptable.”
           Yet, the killings will continue until the system is changed, said Carruthers and DeYoung. “This is America’s history; it is in America’s DNA,” expressed Carruthers. “It has its roots in historic legal decisions, including the Dred Scott decision, Plessy v Ferguson , and the 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision. White people in this country have long sought and benefited from the oppression of black people and have also invested in their belief that Blacks are inferior to whites. Just looking at how that officer kept his knee on the neck of George Floyd for all that time made it clear that he did not consider Floyd to be a human being worthy of being treated as such. In this country, whites in law enforcement are allowed to consistently violate the human rights of black people and in so doing, they evidence their own inhumanity . And, that’s what we have to address and change.”
            Carruthers noted that when these incidents occur, law enforcement works to criminalize and further dehumanize the victim – as a way of justifying what they have done . “It is a pattern. We saw it when Trayvon Martin was killed, when Michael Brown was killed, and Philando Castile was killed, and we are seeing it as the media tells the stories of the murders of Armaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and now, George Floyd. These officers do what they do because the system allows them to do it , and they are rarely afraid of being held accountable,” she said.
            “The African American community is not whining. We are not making up our reality. The racism in this country is deeply entrenched in everything – especially and including its laws and its legal system . Work has to be done to change the system. Until that is done, these tragic killings are going to continue.”
           DeYoung said that it was strikingly apparent that even as people gathered on the streets of Minneapolis to protest, “they were still trying to obey the rules by wearing face masks. Community leaders were encouraging the protests but were also saying to them, “Don’t bring COVID into our communities.”
           In Plessy v Ferguson , dissenting US Supreme Court Judge Marshall Harlan said that the Constitution was “color blind.” That assertion, said Carruthers, is not true and has never been true. In spite of amendments that have helped African Americans enjoy rights and privileges written in the Constitution, those who run governments have successfully ignored the Constitution whenever they have wanted to and have not been concerned about consequences to African Americans or other communities.
            “If these officers are not indicted, brought to trial, convicted, and given sentences commensurate with the vile act of Floyd’s tragic murder, the police department will have blood on its hands,” Carruthers and DeYoung agreed . “The first step in addressing the inhumane injustice of the justice system will be to hold these officers accountable. George Floyd, a young man, unarmed, suspected of forgery, who did not resist arrest and...who should not be dead. And that is what the system is going to have to address. We pray that God intervenes and brings justice to this man’s family and to his community,” they said.