Running, sleeping, driving while Black

Social media video brings attention to institutional biases

by Melody K. Smith | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The tragic deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers have sparked renewed energy into a public debate about race and policing. The Presbyterian Mission Agency created a short video designed to raise awareness of the structural or institutional bias against people of color within the law enforcement and criminal justice systems.

The 30-second video addresses the basic actions in life that have resulted in the deaths of so many African Americans in recent years.

  • For eight minutes and 46 seconds, a now former police officer pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, who died as a result of not being able to breathe.
  • Police entered the apartment of Breonna Taylor in the middle of the night while she was sleeping using a no-knock search warrant, firing 22 times with eight shots hitting and killing the unarmed African American medical worker.
  • Ahmaud Arbery was jogging when he was pursued by two vehicles with three armed white residents, confronted and fatally shot.

“It is abundantly clear, through the gospel narrative and the greater witness of the Bible, that God has called people of faith to seek justice for those most marginalized in our world,” said the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “As a Matthew 25 denomination, it is the vision of our Church to eradicate white supremacy and dismantle structural racism.”

This is not the first time that police violence against African Americans has sparked a nationwide conversation about race. As protests have spread around the globe, the pressure is on police departments and politicians, particularly in the United States, to do something — from reforming law-enforcement tactics to defunding police departments.

Matthew 25:31–46 calls all of us to actively engage in the world around us, so our faith comes alive and we wake up to new possibilities. Convicted by this Scripture passage, both the 222nd and 223rd General Assemblies (2016 and 2018) exhorted the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor.

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