Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) expressed the US bishops’ sentiments in a statement on Sunday following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The bishops also deplored the “self-destructive and self-defeating” violence, which they said “does not advance the cause of racial equality and human dignity”.
“The killing of George Floyd was senseless and brutal, a sin that cries out to heaven for justice,” the US bishops’ president wrote, sharing the “outrage of the black community and those who stand with them in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and across the country”.
However, the bishops pointed out that “the cruelty and violence” that Floyd suffered “does not reflect on the majority of good men and women in law enforcement, who carry out their duties with honor”. They “trust that civil authorities will investigate his killing carefully and make sure those responsible are held accountable,”
Archbishop Gomez said it is understandable that the ensuing protests “reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin.”
“It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life.”
The killing of George Floyd has opened old wounds of racism in the US. On February 23, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot near Brunswick in Glynn County, Georgia. Then on March 13, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers. On May 6, Dreasjon ‘Sean’ Reed on May 6 was killed by Indianapolis police.
Recalling Martin Luther King, Jr. who described riots as the language of the unheard, Archbishop Gomez said “we should be doing a lot of listening right now” to hear what people are saying through their pain.
“We need to finally root out the racial injustice that still infects too many areas of American society.”
At the same time, the US bishops deplored the violence as “self-destructive and self-defeating”, adding, “nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost”.
“Burning and looting communities, ruining the livelihoods of our neighbors, does not advance the cause of racial equality and human dignity.
While inviting all to look forward to “true and lasting change”, the bishops called for honouring the memory of George Floyd “by removing racism and hate” from their hearts and to commit themselves to build a “community of life, liberty, and equality for all”.