Our friends at the Jesuit Post have shared a perspective on the campaigns for racial justice that have gripped this country (and spread around the world) this summer. It’s written by a Jesuit seminarian from Cote d’Ivoire named Eziokwubundu Amadi, who sees in the Black Lives Matter movement a connection to our conviction that all human life is sacred.
Racism has endured as a problem, Amadi explains, because we fail to see every single human life as sacred, and instead categorize others according to the potential value they might have for us. If a certain group of people suffers — take, for example, workers in meatpacking plants during the pandemic — our response to that suffering typically depends on our proximity or allegiance to that group. Amadi writes that this is “segregational” thinking:
The problem is that our notion of respect and dignity of human life is still steeped in the musty legacy of segregational view on human life. We still define human life along the lines of race, culture, religion, social and political status. … But human life, by all accounts, precedes race and culture and personal caprices. These, in relation to the primacy and universal nature of life, are secondary. Life is objective. It is the condition that makes it possible for all other human characteristics.
The whole piece is worth a read because Amadi says that both things are true: all lives matter all the time, of course — AND we must attend to the urgent call for Black lives to matter right now. People of color lag behind white people politically, economically, and in the healthcare and education systems because of the pervasive effects of racism, and it is taking lives. For that reason, Amadi says, we have to lift up and defend Black lives in this moment:
Insisting that Black lives matter is not to say that only Black lives matter, nor that only Black people have been victims of social inequalities. It is, rather, a way of zeroing in on a problem that is often neglected by the social structure that privileges White people. It is a lamentation against the valorization of White lives at the detriment of those of Black people, using the death of (George) Floyd as the most recent proof. This is what gives the “Black Lives Matter” movement its urgency and indefeasible value that cannot be successfully countered or tamed by any malicious appeal to the idea that all-lives-matter in the U.S.
Racism, in other words, is a life issue. If we are committed to protecting the dignity of all human life, we need to apply that standard with special attention and urgency anywhere it is threatened — in the womb, on death row, in nursing homes, in Black communities, and beyond.
These images were captured by Grotto contributor Molly Cruitt during a visit to the site where George Floyd was killed. Molly says, “One thread that flows through all these photos I think is the real care and intentionality the community clearly had in maintaining this space. All the entrances to the intersection had stations with hand sanitizer, a community member offering masks, and other information. There were signs explaining that the community would preserve and repair all offerings given — signs, flowers, etc. It was pretty powerful to see images and messages of pain and anger right with ones of hope.”
Image 1: a mural on the wall leading up to the corner store, Cup Foods, where Floyd was murdered. The space includes flowers, sacred offerings like prayer beads, signs, etc. The mural includes the names of other Black men and women killed by police or in instances of racial injustice.
Image 2: a Black fist surrounded by flowers stands in the middle of the intersection of Chicago Avenue and E 38th Street.
Image 3: a sign offering sits among flowers and traffic cones at the base of the space in front of Cup Foods where George Floyd was murdered.
Image 4: a rope blocks off the exact spot where George Floyd was murdered. It’s surrounded by prayer offerings, flowers, signs, and messages of graffiti.
Image 5: a corner near George Floyd Memorial Blvd features murals of Black leaders, as well as a portrait of Michael Brown and several messages from community members.
Image 6: a young Black man poses in front of the George Floyd mural in a Black Lives Matter jersey.