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Last year I was knocked to the ground and pinned down by an assailant who held his hand over my mouth. I cried out, “I can’t breathe!” About 30 long seconds later he finally let me go.

As I reflect on the heartbreaking deadly scene of a Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine extremely long minutes, and recall my harrowing encounter, I have a small, gut-wrenching sense of the fright Floyd must have felt when he cried out “I can’t breathe!”  

As reported by Democracy Now, friends of Floyd said that he was a mentor to young African American men in Houston where he grew up. He preached “peace, love, God, unity, advocating against gun violence” said Corey Paul, a Houston hip-hop artist who ministered with Floyd (see: https://bit.ly/3cpm6Fq).

On Pentecost Sunday, I participated with about 150 black, white, young and elderly people in two peaceful protests in Dorchester County, Md. – where the famous Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman was born and enslaved (see: https://www.nps.gov/hatu/index.htm).           

While most of the other protests throughout the U.S. and world were also peaceful, several were violent – tragically causing more innocent deaths and many small businesses being destroyed.

Violence, in all its many evil forms – including riots – is always harmful and hurtful. Violence is never the answer!

Pope Francis said “The violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and much is lost.”

But in order to end violence, we must seriously probe its root-causes. And to that end the Holy Father also said, “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life” (see: https://bit.ly/308Hxbl).

In his article “The Psychology of Rioting: The Language of the Unheard” at Psychology Today, Dr. Joe Pierre, M.D. writes, “Denouncing symptoms of disease without treating the root cause is bad medicine. ... The root cause in this case is systemic racism.”

From 1619, when kidnapped Africans were brought for the first time to what would later become the U.S., to the brutal death of George Floyd, it is beyond dispute that countless African Americans have been, and still are, the victims of systemic racism.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who consistently preached and lived Gospel nonviolence, said in his 1967 “The Other America” speech: “I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. I’m still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and justice. ...

“It is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. ... But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.

“America has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility, and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity ... Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention” (watch: https://bit.ly/3eVqJZv).

Please also watch “Race Matters: America in Crisis” https://to.pbs.org/3f1jlvL.

And kindly consider prayerfully reading the 2018 U.S. Catholic bishops’ pastoral letter against racism “Open Wide Our Hearts: the enduring call to love” (see: https://bit.ly/2UeCmmp).

Beginning their letter the bishops quote from Scripture’s First Letter of John, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”

Loving Father, open wide our hearts that we may truly know and live this truth!

Comments from readers

Claudette Hinds - 06/26/2020 10:24 AM
I was most pleasantly surprised by this and several other articles on your website that show us the biblical view of race relations. As a person of color, it was encouraging to see the Church BE the Church - that City on a Hill to which the world can look for spiritual guidance and godly direction. Thank you for restoring my faith in the faith community.
Bernardo R Garcia-Granda - 06/22/2020 08:17 PM
Racism and slavery has always existed in our world. The Asians, the Egyptians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Africans, Mayas and Aztecs in the Americas all had slaves. Even today, slavery is much alive in the form of human trafficking. Nevertheless, I believe that we have made significant progress in racial issues since I came to this country in 1961 from Cuba. I recall those times of complete segregation when Blacks could not drink from the same public water fountain or use the same restrooms as Whites. Sin is the root cause of all evil and more than ever we need God in our hearts. Let us not waist more time in pointing fingers at each other creating more divisions in our society. Let us work together for the common good of the only important race: the human race.
Valli Leone - 06/22/2020 02:53 PM
Thank you for the true and thoughtful article that speaks to my heart during these difficult times. As Catholics, I do not understand how we can support the racist beliefs and policies that seem to be prevalent so much in our government’s present administration. It takes strength, love and wisdom to be doers of the Word and not just hearers. The racist blind spots and the selective amnesia among so many Christians is beyond my belief and understanding. In my opinion, the entire Body of Christ is gasping for a change! Love never fails. Jesus, take the wheel! ❤️
Beatriz Bezos - 06/22/2020 01:16 PM
Mr. Magliano, Respectfully, may I remind you that Americans twice proudly elected an African-American as President. We also have a balanced Supreme Court, among other government positions. You should have explained the concept of "Systemic Racism". Many just repeat it, without understanding what is being implied. And - Yes, it is wrong, but racism exist among and against all skin colors. I noticed you took us back to 1619 when Africans were kidnapped. I would have appreciated if you have taken your time to explain the respect, equality and tranquility we all should be able to enjoy. Please, review the deaths in the City of Chicago, of what is generally called "black-on-black crime". Also, missing is the need to strengthen families of all colors, as one of the biggest gaps today is the lack of positive male roles, specially in African-American families. Burning down the livelihood of minorities in the name of equality is truly irresponsible and just representative of an unruly mob. Thanks,
Jose Ignacio Jimenez - 06/22/2020 12:17 PM
We still have work to do to remove racism from society, but we must analyze the situation honestly so decisions about how to move forward are based on truth and facts. Part of the responsibility for the mass hysteria resulting in the rioting, looting, and deaths of the past few weeks must be placed at the feet of the media and politicians that have parroted the biased messages of organizations like Antifa and Black Lives Matter that make a business out of using the pain of those who feel oppressed and marginalized to further their political agenda. As Catholics we must always search for the truth to discern and respond with compassion. Instead too often many get caught-up in the politically charged climate and support racially charged knee-jerk solutions to problems that are not at the root of the problems experienced by many in the black community. St. Pope John Paul II called us to change the culture of society. We must question what is happening to our culture that results in high crime rates, high poverty rates. lack of respect for the rights of others (human rights, property rights, civil rights), lack of compassion to defend the dignity of God's children (born and unborn), and lack of faith in the future (in this life and the next). So if a riot is the language of the unheard, who and what are we listening to? The biased media? The forces that seek to destroy our culture? We must listen to those working to rescue the souls of the oppressed and the oppressors, and to the facts about the problems we are trying to solve. The rest of the noise is for the most part divisive. There are forces we should not be listening to.
STEVE ABRIL - 06/22/2020 09:42 AM
In the Church, the bishops were again given a pass by brain-dead, zombie Catholics (after just a few bad days in the press). Abortions continue unabated. Your article is a "RED HERRING" The Catholic Church needs to go back to speaking of the Sacraments , stop injecting liberation theology policies and protesting with masses that have MOB influences mixed in to spread class struggle Marxism who in essence hates the Catholic Church regardless of how you try to appease then. It's all about P O W E R. Watch the EWTN DVD: " A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING." "wOKE" HAS DUPED THE cATHOLIC cHURCH.
Hope Sadowski - 06/22/2020 09:13 AM
Very nice article. What happened to Mr. Floyd is unconscionable, disgusting and totally unacceptable especially coming form the police that are supposed to protect us not kill. Having said that "Riots a Language of the Unheard" is inexcusable destroying the property of innocent people does not give them the right to destroy. Years go by, different politicians of different colors and ethnicity and nothing gets done. Why? because getting elected is more important and they tell you what is "popular" at the moment. Riots are not the answer.
Max - 06/22/2020 09:08 AM
The root cause of the latest riots are lies about racism from media. The media didn't show the other two officers with a knee on Floyd until well after inciting mobs... Racism would be dead in America if the democrats stopped calling people racist when they are not. The only racism I have seen in America over the last 30 years has been coming from democrats. The Black Lives Matter group is not an anti-racism group, they are a hate group. They hate traditional families and police. See their "What we believe" section on their website under their "About Us". The founder is a friend of Nickolas Maduro, the Venezuelan dictator... when she visited him, she said it was great being surrounded by people with the same political beliefs... We, as Catholics, must always preach the truth and expose the lies propagated by the evil one.

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