MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Members of Memphis’s faith community say they have been watching the protests for George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis Police officer kneeled on his neck, with great concern.
Keith Norman and Kenneth Whalum, Jr. have a unique view of Memphis and the world. They’ve witnessed a lot of history over the decades as pastors and politicians, and last night marks another chapter.
“What we saw was an opportunity to stand in unity and solidarity,” Norman said. “And that was important because what the people in Minneapolis needed to see was, ‘We feel you. We are with you. We are connected to you.'”
So when they saw an African-American man in Minneapolis, struggling to breathe under the weight of a police officer, they knew this would strike a nerve.
“We’ve heard the words ‘I can’t breathe’ too many times,” Norman said. “We’re the only people on the face of the Earth who really have to have conversations with our children about how to encounter police authority sometimes.”
Until that changes or until there’s help from above, they’re both aware these will be unsettling, turbulent times.
“People who feel like they are invisible and feel like there’s no other way they can get the attention of the so-called ‘establishment’ is by disruption,” Whalum said. “If you don’t have a foundation in God, you don’t have a foundation. Period. And you’ll stay in a state of uproar, you’ll stay in a state of frustration. And you’ll stay in a state of bitterness and anger, trying to get establishment to do what the establishment obviously does not want to do.”
For them, there needs to be something resembling swift, immediate justice.
“To simply say do something and do something today,” Norman said. “If it’s no more than to fire them and take them to jail, that’s the right response. That gives me hope. That gives African-American people hope . . . it gives you hope because you don’t want to live in a society where justice is slow, but violence is always quick. You don’t want to be in that society.”