As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! Galatians 5:12
What did the Apostle Paul say? In another translation “emasculate” means “to mutilate, or “to go the full way and cut off (you know what).” Paul sounded irate at those false teachers who gave such importance to circumcision, and in so doing were creating more mischief to the churches of Christ than anything else. When we are passionate about things that are of importance, we literally feel the same anger as God feels towards sinful things. Have you ever felt godly indignation?
Racism and injustice is one of those hot and steamy topics these days. What are Christians to do about it? It is not godly to retaliate but we feel this anger rising in our hearts because of the injustices in our society. It has been seven months since the death of Mr. George Floyd, and the world has taken part in several protests. With the many changes I have witnessed in my workplace, in my union, and especially with the Canadian government, I would say the voices of the persecuted are being heard. Yes, it will take decades to transform the minds and hearts of these racist people and unjust institutions. And in the meantime, Christians are allowed to express godly indignation to the way we feel. I would go as far as to say it’s good for our mental health.
I’ve been part of a few work learning sessions, one in particular, Racial Trauma, Towards Understanding and Resilience, was held by the Ministry of the Attorney General. The speaker, Ms. Donna Anderson, RSW, was phenomenal in the way she explained the trauma that comes from racism. Many people bottle their feelings and show up to work in the name of resilience, and it is taxing to our mental health. After a while, we experience burnout, headaches, withdrawal and a myriads of other psychological effects. I am simply saying, sometimes, we have to speak up about what we are feeling.
Paul spoke up and said, “I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” He was tired of listening to these false teachers saying nonsense about circumcision as it pertains to Christ and the church. They were not benefitting the teachings of Christianity, and were causing more divisions than anything else. And Paul said, enough is enough. Why should he pretend that what they were saying wasn’t affecting him? In the same way, we ought to stand up for justice, for the poor, for those behind bars, for the homeless, for those who are mourning. Take a stand for something we believe, and stop with this neutral, indifferent attitude. What do you care about? Certainly, Jesus Christ cared about every challenge that came before him in his society. Did He not provide more wine at a wedding? Did he not feed thousands of people because they were hungry? Did he not heal the sick? Did he not care for children? Christ was a man who walked this earth and saw similar injustices as we see daily, and He did something about it, every day.
So, Christians, what are we doing to take a stand against injustices in our society? Is there anything you feel godly indignation about? Then, do something about it. It’s not enough to just go to work and come home. It’s necessary that we take action by being a voice for those who are voiceless. We have talents and gifts that are as different as each one of us are. And it is so important that we use the little that we have and take a stand for each of our brothers and sisters. For the sake of Christ Jesus, I implore you to take a stand in the name of justice. In the words of Mr. Mahatma Gandhi, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
The unarmed African-American’s death on 25 May was captured on video while a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis, sparking worldwide protest.
During the debate on racism, alleged police brutality and violence against protesters that preceded the resolution’s adoption, no less than120 speakers took the floor.
Many expressed sympathy for the family of Mr. Floyd, whose brother also addressed Council members in Geneva, in a passionate pre-recorded video message in which he urged the United Nations to act.
No international probe
Although some delegates had called for an international probe to investigate killings of black people in America, and violence against demonstrators, others maintained that the issue impacted on all nations, and required a broader approach.
In line with the final version of the resolution text, the High Commissioner should “prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, especially those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and of people of African descent”.
The text also calls on Ms. Bachelet – assisted by UN appointed independent rights experts and committees “to examine government responses to anti-racism peaceful process peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists”.
Overseeing the resolution, Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger (Austria), President of the Human Rights Council (14th cycle) announced that the text was ready for their consideration and asked whether a vote could be dispensed with, in light of the general consensus.
‘An historic step’
“Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I have been informed that a number of resolutions are ready for adoption during this meeting as shown on the screen…So, I would like to ask if there is a request from anybody for a vote…I see none, so may I take it that the draft proposal L50 as orally revised may be adopted without a vote? It is so decided.”
In his address to Member States as coordinator of the African Group, Dieudonné W. Désiré Sougouri, Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso to the United Nations Office, declared the Urgent Debate “an historic step” in the combat against racism of which the Human Rights Council could be “proud”.
“The international outrage caused by the tragic events that led to the death of George Floyd underlined the urgency and importance for the Human Rights Council to raise its voice against injustice and police brutality which African people and people of African descent are faced with every day in many regions of the world,” he said.
The Council also heard widespread declarations of support for an investigation into violence against protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Racism will remain ‘a priority’
“The fight against all forms of racism and racial discrimination remains a priority for us,” said Michael Ungern-Sternberg, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva. “The past weeks, many people around the world raised their voices and took to the streets to send a clear signal that racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against minority populations cannot (any) longer be accepted.”
Other speakers insisted that the resolution was necessary and important in promoting awareness about systemic racism, and in continuing the work of implementing key pledges taken to combat the scourge in 2002 at the Durban World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
“Black lives matter,” said Ambassador Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Racism continues to happen in many countries too, he said, noting that it was in “flagrant contradiction” to the UN Charter in which we place our faith in the basic rights of man and in the value of the human person”.
UN independent experts voice ‘profound concern’ over US Government accusations of ‘domestic terrorism’
And in another human rights development concerning the fallout from protests over George Floyd’s death in the US, UN independent experts on Friday expressed “profound concern” over a recent statement by the US Attorney-General describing the so-called Antifa movement and other anti-fascist activists as “domestic terrorists”, saying it undermines the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly in the country.
“International human rights law protects the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”, said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
“It is regrettable that the United States has chosen to respond to the protests in a manner that undermines these fundamental rights.”
Following nationwide demonstrations that began after police in Minneapolis killed African American George Floyd, US Attorney General William Barr warned that alleged violence carried out by Antifa and other movements “is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly”, noted the press release issued by the UN rights office, OHCHR.
‘Loose use of terrorist rhetoric’
Although there has not been an legislative action taken following the 31 May statement, Ms. Ní Aoláin – an expert lawyer who worked extensively in the human rights and terrorism-related field in her native Northern Ireland – said that the “the loose use of terrorism rhetoric undermines legitimate protests and dampens freedom of expression in the United States, which has been a hallmark of US constitutional values, and a beacon far beyond its shores”.UN Special Procedures✔@UN_SPExperts
Echoing the unease expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding structural race discrimination in the US, particularly in the realm of policing, the Special Rapporteur said that regulating protests and violence through the lens of counter-terrorism may only sharpen divisions and accentuate tensions, fuelling further human rights violations.
The group of independent experts strongly recommend that the violent elements among peaceful protesters who have been identified by law enforcement, be dealt with fairly, and in accordance to due process under existing penal law.
Ms. Ní Aoláin is urging the US Government to take a human rights-based approach in their response to protests and violence and avoid the misuse and misappropriation of the language of terrorism.
“Unless it does, the Government risks cheapening grave crimes that fall under the rubric of terrorism and failing to fulfil fundamental obligations to ensure counter-terrorism measures are fully compliant with international human rights law.”
The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council constitute the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, and they address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work, as well as being independent from any government or organization.
On this Sunday afternoon I took part in the anti-Black racism protest held at Celebration Square in Mississauga, Square One area. This is one of a sequence of protests being held around the Greater Toronto Area for Mr. George Floyd, the African American who was killed by police officers’ brutal use of force on March 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Chants of “George Floyd, say his name” and “Black Lives Matter” were heard loud and clear by over 2500 protesters, representing the Canadian melting pot; black, white, asian, brown, hijab wearers, and durag wearers alike. It was hard not to get your hearts filled, as vibrations of hope, community, love, and faith emanated through the streets of Mississauga.
The protest was organized by Mr. Innis Ingram, a Mississauga resident, whose best friend in grade 8 was an African Canadian girl. Ingram, a white man with ginger beard says his best friend got heckled when she was young, during the time of the Rodney King incident (an African American man who was brutally beaten by the Police in California). These were the pullings on Ingram’s heart which led him to take action. “It’s time to get off my butt and do something” says the Mississauga resident, “we want to show that Mississauga stands in solitary.” Looking around at this massive crowd peacefully marching around the downtown core, along Hurontario Street, it’s clear where the hearts and minds of the residents are.
Like Ingram and many others, it was important to me as a Jamaican woman to show my support for Floyd’s death. Feeling the immense passion of this young diverse group paints a picture of where we are going as a nation and society. This march is not only for today, it is a banner that the young will carry into their futures as they take on positions in civil and private sector. This march will influence young people to know what they believe, and take a stand for themselves and for others, in the name of justice and equality.
The signs clearly made their points: No Justice No Peace” “Racism is a Pandemic too”, “White Silence is Violence say their names”, and “Love Black People, Like You Love Black Culture.” The voices were loud and passionate in their chants. The purpose of this Mississauga protest is for policy changes against systemic racism, including the use of body-worn cameras for Peel Regional Police, for which the Mayors of Mississauga and Brampton expressed support.
Yes, these protests send out a clear message to all of us, and particularly for this generation to hear, to see, and to feel differently about racism. There is hope. The streets of Mississauga was filled with it, this Sunday afternoon on June 7, and it will be remembered for a long long time to come.
For a long time, I thought I understood racism based on the definition, “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (Oxford online dictionary). But now as an adult, I have to ask, do I really know racism, if I see it face to face? How can I tell? Can you? When I watched Malcolm X movie for the first time in my grade 12 religion class, I saw what racism could do to people, to a nation. The divisiveness of it, and how it created such practices as John Crow laws, and the offensive apartheid regime in South Africa. But, when I left the protective embraces of my school, and stepped into a world of big bad wolves, I don’t see these flagrant acts of prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism. Instead, what I see are very polite people who are going about their daily lives, too busy, too focused, too apathetic to concern themselves about me. In other words, everyone is out there, trying to get what’s their’s, “by any means necessary” (to steal Malcolm X’s words). So, how do I spy with my little eye, a racist in all its disguise?
How can I tell that one believes that he/she is superior? This is the premise of racism, right? For one thing, I cannot read minds. So if I enter a room with an all white interview panel, and a month later, I am informed, I didn’t get the job, is that because of racism? In an isolated situation, we can never know. I am unable to tell whether the simple act of not picking me for the job was discrimination, or straight up, I wasn’t the best candidate. But here is a real incident that happened to me in 2014. I was one of approximately 20 students in a Public Administration program at Seneca College. The program had an internship component, which was why I chose to take this graduate certificate program in the first place. Four months into the eight-month program, seven students were selected for the internship. All seven were white. Is that a coincidence? What was their selection criteria based on? Grades? We were not given an explanation. The rest of us who were not selected were part of the great Canadian non white diversity. And we did nothing about it. Why? The students expressed their concerns to me, that they were shocked, and disappointed, but on the other hand felt afraid that if we were to do something about it, we would be punished (i.e. getting a bad grade).
Upon doing some research, I find that we condone racism in one of two ways. Either we do nothing when it happens, or we benefit from someone else’s demise, then lap up the blood from the corners of our mouths. It’s a wolves world and we are in it for ourselves. But, there comes a time, when each of us have to stop and think. Stop being naive, stop acting in apathy, and definitely stop benefitting from someone’s loss. It’s time for me to wake up, and realize that racism doesn’t come with a label. It comes with a subtle feeling that something isn’t right.
Recently, I went grocery shopping at my local Food Basics. As I was pushing my cart, I saw an older white staff standing in front of one of the aisle with his coffee in hand. Having been to this food basics many times, these people are aways working, so it confused me as to why he was standing so stiffly. I looked down the bottom of the aisle, and there it was. The staff’s target was a black young man, early twenties, searching for something on a top shelf. Was that what I thought it was? Even as I made my way to the cashier I wondered. I felt something was wrong because I had spot racism. It can’t always be determined with those big words, but it can be with your gut.
When we spot it, we must decide what to do about it. In Food basics, I did what many Canadians would do. We acknowledge it, but we do nothing. I was not the one being a racist, and I was not the one experiencing it. But, I was a witness. So what is my role? It’s important to think about it in terms of what the bible says,
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
In other words, be brave for our friends, for our co-workers, for our neighbours. Why? Because God said so. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
We may never truly know on the onset when we are experiencing racism, or when we see it being done to someone we know. But, rather than labelling it immediately, listen to your gut. Trust it. What you do after, is your decision. Ultimately, we all have a role to play when it comes to racism in our society, and playing a blind eye, or feeling sorry for ourselves, is not a role. We must act.