Ethics & Christian living

George Floyd is our brother, our father, our cousin, our friend – by Neil Charlton

Last Sunday my church celebrated Pentecost. Over 50 different nationalities are represented within our fellowship in Streatham, south London.

It was great to see an online montage of many of our members dressed in their national attire. It’s a beautiful reminder of the multicultural birth of the church.

The Pentecost festival saw Jerusalem packed with “devout pilgrims from all over the world” and many foreign-language speakers (Acts 2:9-11, MSG). The narrative clearly suggests that God specifically intended for the good news of Jesus Christ to be for all nations, all people and all cultures. 

Bad News For Some

Fast forward to London today. We too share the joys (and pains) of living in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. There are over 300 different languages spoken at home in London.[1] I was born and raised in North London to Jamaican parents and now live in South London. For most people London and the UK as is a wonderful place to live. But for some, it’s not all good news.

Employment rates are the lowest for ethnic minorities across the country.[2] Education attainment for ethnic minorities is the lowest in primary and secondary schools.[3] Ethnic minorities are under-represented at senior levels across the public sector.[4] There is greater dis-proportionality in the number of Black people in prisons in the UK than in the U.S.[5] Black people are more than four times more likely to die of Covid-19 than the white British population.[6] BAME people are fined disproportionately than the rest of the population under Coronavirus laws (whilst others who break the rules are excused).[7]

Historic injustices

Time doesn’t permit me to convey all the verbal and non-verbal slights and indignities that I and other ethnic minorities have experienced while living in the UK (including within churches!). Nor have I even begun to touch on the enduring psychological and economical legacy of slavery that Britain participated in and received the financial benefits of for over 500 years.

It may sound uncomfortable to hear, but these historical injustices have a direct bearing on contemporary ethnic inequalities. God is not pleased with those who continue to accept the injustice of others (Isaiah 10:1-3). God is deeply concerned for the spiritual and social well-being of suffering ethnicities (Acts 6:1-7).

Are you?

Fatal News For Others

On July 6, 2016, in Minnesota, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African American man, was stopped while driving with his partner and four-year-old daughter. While seeking to fully comply with the police from within the car he was fatally shot five times by an officer. His partner and four-year-old daughter witnessed the whole thing. The officer was charged but was later acquitted. Kehinde Andrews wrote:

“To understand the depth of feeling in Britain to slayings in America is to grasp the connections of blackness, which cannot be contained by national borders. When we see Philando Castile bleeding out we are not looking at a distant stranger. We are seeing our brother, our father, our cousin, our friend. His killing happened to black communities in Britain as much as it did to those in Minnesota.”

Not just a US problem

THIS is the reason why the death of George Floyd has upset and angered so many people around the world.

Because this is far from just an American problem. Sarah Reed, Mark Duggan, Sheku Bayoh, Christopher Alder, Leon Patterson, Cynthia Jarrett, Sean Rigg. These are just a few of many black people who have died in police custody in the UK in recent decades.

Perhaps you haven’t even heard of half these names because the injustice was not caught on camera. Contrary to what some may believe, racism in all its guises is alive and kicking here in the UK.

Good News Through Us

Be honest: if you were to observe any form of racial inequality happening to someone would you see them as a possible “brother”, “father”, “cousin”, “friend”? Or would they be more a “distant stranger?”

Would you speak up and help them, or would you stand by and just watch like the complicit officer standing next to George Floyd? 

God calls us to be his body (1 Corinthians 12:27), to be His hands, His feet, and His mouth. Which means seeking and serving the spiritual and social well-being of all people, but especially those who are consistently suffering the most. If God is deeply concerned for the well-being of suffering ethnicities shouldn’t we be too? When needed, we must speak up on their behalf.

Not enough

Thinking of yourself as ‘not racist’ is not enough.

“One either allows racial inequities to persevere….or confronts racial inequities…there is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.”[8]

White middle-class Britains are in a privileged position to help ethnic minorities in the UK since the “burden of racism and racial inequality does not lie on the shoulders of people of colour.”[9] It lays on the shoulders of those who observe it but do nothing about it. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said

“He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

We must actively and openly challenge racial inequities whenever and wherever we find them. This is allowing the good news of God to affect others through us.

So how could you practically?

We should pray and study the justice in God’s word. But we also need to be people of action.

And to end, I want to direct you to an excellent resource which summarises my thoughts far better than I ever could: Why we must be actively anti-racist

Neil Charlton is the Youth Worker at Streatham Baptist Church


5 thoughts on “George Floyd is our brother, our father, our cousin, our friend – by Neil Charlton”

  1. A very we!l written article which is clear about the failings in society in Britain and the USA.

  2. Thank you for your honest post. I live in a predominantly “white” area, for some reason or other may be because of the fact that there are very few jobs in our area now, most of working age have to travel quite a few miles to find work nowadays, there are very few people of other ethnicities living near me, the few that I are, I do find to be sound, kind people who put themselves out to be helpful to an older soul. One lady, has been upset in the past about the number of times her husband has been approached by police on several occasions for absolutely no apparent reason. ….. perhaps one day the world will grow up… even Moses was subject to backbiting by his own sister because he had married an Ethiopian woman, and we are told that the the Lord was angry and took Miriam to task about it, woe to all of us, if we put ourselves in the place of deserving the Lord’s anger because of our prejudices….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s