“We have to be nice to other people”
“No bullying black people,” admonished Elizabeth, age 6. “We have to be nice to other people.”
This simple wisdom from the lips of a tiny wisp of a girl couldn’t have been more appropriate to the setting and intent of Grayson’s Black Lives Matter demonstration. The event – like others across the nation in recent days – was organized to protest the deaths of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, and Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, at the hands of police and to remember Ahmaud Arbery. But organizer Dee Garrett, a football player at Kentucky Christian University, wanted to follow lessons learned from his Christian faith and emphasize the power of love to change hearts.
He said he understands how some protesters’ anger might boil over. He hasn’t always turned the other cheek either, he explained.
“It took me a while to get like that,” explained Garrett, who grew up in the Cincinnati area. “I didn’t used to think like that, but it took God’s grace to change the way I used to think. That’s what mattered. Love cast out all fear.”
Garrett’s football coach at KCU, Corey Fipps, was one of the many KCU staff members to address the demonstrators, emphasizing how Christian love should lead followers of Christ to stand up for racial justice.
“I’m thinking about how God is using this moment to change hearts,” Fipps said. “Some of us needed a change of heart.”
Rose, a Haitian-born teacher from Florida who was visiting her siblings at KCU along with her two daughters – six-year-old Elizabeth and three-year-old Harper – said she was on her way home when she saw the demonstration and felt compelled to pull over and join the event.
“I was on my way back to Florida and had to stop and say ‘Thank you, Grayson,'” Rose said when she addressed the crowd.
“This is unbelieveable, I can’t believe this is happening here,” she said. “Because they (her siblings) have experienced racism here.”
She told them that growing up in Haiti, where the majority of the population has black skin, she never thought about racial animus. But, she said, it expressed itself in America in multiple, and sometimes subtle, ways. For instance, she said, she often gets comments like, “You sound so educated.” At first, she said, it didn’t hit her. She was educated, after all. But, she said, “little by little these comments add up.”
She also noted that, as a mother, she didn’t want to have “the race talk” with her two daughters, but, she explained, that talk “is unavoidable.”
Even though her daughters, who have a white father, have more privilege because of their lighter skin they are still “black” to the people who want to harm them simply because of their heritage.
“My children are black,” she told the Times. “They’re half white, but they’re still considered black, and I want them to see that, although we have passed the whole civil rights (era) and we’re not being lynched like we used to be, there are still different ways we are being lynched. We’re being killed in traffic stops and doing things that are minimal.”
Ahmaud Arbery was chased down and killed by three white men while walking through a south Georgia neighborhood, at least one of whom uttered racial epithets over his dead body while his friend recorded it. George Floyd died after being pinned to the ground by officer Derek Chauvin, who held his knee in the handcuffed Floyd’s throat for nearly nine minutes while the 46-year-old father told him he couldn’t breathe and cried for his mother. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was shot eight times in her bed after police served a no-knock warrant on the address 10 miles from the residence of their suspect. Later investigation revealed that the person they were looking for was already in custody.
These are three of the most recent and high profile deaths of black men and women at the hands of police and white men who racially profiled their victims. But, as demonstrators noted, they are only the most recent in a long history of racial violence.
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