The Deadliest Virus

“Grandma, what do you think of…?” This is how most conversations began with my 99 year old grandmother. Alert and thoughtful, she read the newspaper every day until the day she died.

I wish I could ask her now, “Grandma, what do you think of what happened to George Floyd?”

“Grandma, what do you think of what the President did in front of the church?”

“Grandma, what do you think of the protests?”

“Grandma, what do you think of the curfew?”

Grandma died on May 16, weeks before the brutal police murder of George Floyd. One of the last questions I asked her was, “Grandma, what do you think of the Coronavirus?”

She said, “It’s hard to believe it’s real. You look outside and you can’t see it.”

But now I wonder what she would say about a different virus, a more deadly virus that’s been infecting people for more than 500 years. Anti-black racism is the deadliest virus to infect the soul of this nation. We cannot build immunity to it. It continues to kill black and brown people while sickening the souls of white people. Racism is our nation’s original sin.

When Grandma suddenly fell seriously ill, we prepared for her to have a good death. To protect the health and safety of family members from contracting COVID19, we limited the number of family who could be present at her bedside.

Before her death, I led prayers for the dying on Facetime. I guided Grandma’s first born, my mother, in anointing her with oil, making a sign of the cross on her forehead. Spiritually, I was present and in the room with Grandma. A couple of days later, she died peacefully in her sleep at home.

As a local pastor, when I called my Grandma she always asked how things were going at the church. She’d listen closely and then say, “don’t work too hard.” My church last worshipped in-person on March 8, and since then has become an online church. I did not leave my house, apart from neighborhood walks, for almost three months.

When it came time for Grandma’s graveside memorial service our family decided to limit the number of people. We didn’t want to contribute to the spread of COVID19. Again, I stayed home and joined the family using Facetime to offer a scripture reading and prayer.

COVID19 kept me physically away from Grandma in her time of dying and in our family’s time of grieving her death. Mourning the death of a loved one is an emotional, spiritual and physical experience. Even though we are physically distant, our bodies still grieve, even when alone.

Just days after Grandma’s graveside service, George Floyd was killed. A call to action went out to all local pastors where I live in Indianapolis. Come protest. Wear a mask. I looked away.

I didn’t want to contract COVID19. I didn’t want to be a spreader. After three months of saying no to leaving the house, how could I change my mind now?

I got a direct message. Then I got a text. Then I got another text. Come. Are you coming? Black and white women clergy friends wanted to know. Can we count on you? Will you join us?

“Grandma, who art in heaven, what should I do?”

What a hypocrite to leave my house now! Why didn’t I go out then, if I am thinking about going out now? What has changed?

I went to God in prayer, “O Holy One, show me. Help me. What should I do?”

I wanted to go to Grandma’s bedside. I wanted to go to Grandma’s graveside. But I knew I could not.

I did not want to go to the protest. I did not want to be exposed to COVID19. But I knew I had to go.

Black lives matter.

Prayer changed me. In prayer, God guided my steps. God said to go.

With God’s help, I do what I cannot do alone.

With God’s help, I go to places I fear.

With God’s help, I speak when I have no words.

With God’s help, I give my life.

Leaving my house during the global pandemic in order to join hundreds of strangers to protest was an act of rebellion. I did not want to do it. But I had to do it. I did not want to go. But I had to go.

While the threat of COVID19 is very real and deadly, the threat of anti-black racism remains the greatest threat to the lives of white, black and brown people. Until we eradicate this vitriolic virus, we will continue to spread the virus for generations to come.

“Grandma, who art in heaven, what do you think?”

A respected and beloved family member contacted me after seeing my social media post about attending the clergy protest at the Indiana State House. She rightly questioned my logic. How, she asked, could I go to be with thousands of people, yet I wouldn’t come to be with family at a time of our greatest need?

Millions of people are taking to the streets across the world peacefully protesting. COVID19 is still a threat. Health experts predict a surge of COVID19 illnesses and deaths from these super spreader events.

Yet, for us all to stay safe and stay healthy at home is not safe or healthy at all. Not really. How safe and healthy is it to continue to live in a nation where the anti-black racism virus has nearly a 100% infection rate among whites?

In a global pandemic, people are risking their lives fighting the deadliest virus of all time. We are concocting the vaccine together, in our bodies, in our cries, in our protests. In the streets and in the voting booth, there is hope for eradicating the deadliest virus.

“Grandma, who art in heaven, what do you think?”

“Go. Wear a mask. Stay physically distanced if you can. I couldn’t believe in the coronavirus because I couldn’t see it. But this virus you are fighting I’ve seen my whole life. Go and do your part to stop it.”

Photo by Jerrel L. Farries

Published by Sarah Griffith Lund

Leader, preacher and author of *Blessed are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Church and Family*

2 thoughts on “The Deadliest Virus

  1. Sarah,
    This was such a moving and stirring expression of being guided by the Holy Spirit that I have read in awhile. The care in which you weighed your decision was so thoughtful. And I am reminded that no matter what I do in life, I will be judged in some way by others who feel the need to voice their opinions when the only opinion that matters most is by the One I was called to serve. Blessings to you my friend.

  2. Black Lives Matter 2020

    hard not to follow “Black Lives Matter” on the news – – and even nearby in La Mesa!

    I have been remembering some of my first memories of race relations. After graduation from high school in 1956 such issues didn’t mean much to me. In Nebraska where I was born and grew up until 1956 my only memories of “another race” were American Indians/Native Americans in our community. But no big deal – two of my uncles married Native American women. One of my high school classmate’s Mom was Native American – – but no big deal.

    After joining the Navy and later that same year I was at a Navy school in Bainbridge, Maryland. One weekend made a visit to Washington DC and Arlington National Cemetery. The Cemetery is actually in Virginia – – and for the first time I saw restrooms with “White” and “Colored” signs on them. I remember thinking – “Wow, I have read about this and heard about this – – but it really does exist!”

    I didn’t really realize it at the time – – but the Navy and Military had not been integrated very long in 1956 – – and a lot of older Navy people thought it still should be!

    Later when a seminary student in Kansas City, Kansas in 1965 I also worked as a youth leader at First Baptist Church. Before school was out in the spring of 1965 our high school group became interested in sponsoring a Cuban Refugee – -maybe a young person like them. I sent a letter of inquiry on behalf of our students. No reply. We were away during summer, had just come back to school in the fall and had a phone call from Church World Service in Miami saying “we have your family”!

    So immediately we had a church board meeting – – this was suddenly a bigger issue that a high school project! And I still remember that one of the Board Members, who was a local real estate agent and developer first question was “how dark are they”??

    In those days, KCK and real estate people in many cities had “red lined” the maps, designating where they could show and sell houses to people of color. How “dark” were our Cuban Refugees? Which area could we find a place for them to live in 1965 Kansas City??

    This Red Lining of cities, like Minneapolis, Minnesota can probably be traced to the creation and isolation of the Black population to these areas.

    Some of my earlier memories of “Black Lives” – – – and a related history.

    Attached are a couple of things on that – – and reference to an email that I received today from a friend in Australia.

    Hopefully we have made some strides in race relations – – but some days we have to wonder!!

    Go to the bottom of my attachment – – today, June 3 is “Mabo Day” in Australia – – the U-Tube presentation might be worth your taking a look at . . . . .

    Attachments area

    Three more former Minneapolis police officers were charged on Wednesday in the deadly arrest of George Floyd, five days after charges were brought against a fourth officer who was seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
    Former officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng are facing charges of aiding and abetting murder, according to criminal complaints filed by the state of Minnesota on Wednesday. The murder charge against another former officer, Derek Chauvin, were also elevated to second-degree murder.
    Chauvin, the officer who place knee on Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes while detaining him on May 25, was initially charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter by the Hennepin County prosecutor.
    All four officers were terminated from their positions with the department on May 26, after a video showing the detainment went viral.Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who has been appointed to lead the prosecution in the case, said in an MSNBC interview Monday that he intended to charge the officers with the “highest degree of accountability that the law and the facts will support.”
    The Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the elevated murder charge against Chauvin or new charges filed against the other three officers Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if the officers had representation.
    Multiple videos have been released on Floyd’s arrest, with one showing him pinned down by three different officers near a patrol car while a fourth stands near his head. Floyd can be heard pleading, “I can’t breathe.””Please, please, please, I can’t breathe,” Floyd begged in one video caught by a bystander. “My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please. I can’t breathe.”
    He died while in custody that day.
    Lane and Kueng were the first officers to arrive at scene that night, as they investigated a possible fake $20 bill being passed at the Cup Foods grocery store, according to the criminal complaint against Chauvin. When Lane found Floyd parked nearby, the officer pulled his gun, had the man get out of his car and then handcuffed him, the complaint against Chauvin said.
    The handcuffed Floyd was eventually put face-down on the pavement with Kueng holding down his back and Lane pressing down his legs, the charging document against Chauvin said. While a distressed Floyd said “I can’t breathe,” “Mama” and “please” several times, Lane asked “should we roll him on his side?” according to prosecutors.
    “No, staying put where we got him,” Chauvin responded, according to the complaint against him. “I am worried about excited delirium or whatever,” Lane allegedly said. “That’s why we have him on his stomach,” Chauvin responded, according to the criminal complaint against him.
    Several minutes later, Kueng checked Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and allegedly said, “I couldn’t find one.”The official autopsy from the Hennepin County medical examiner listed Floyd’s cause of death as a “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
    The medical examiner ruled that Floyd’s death was a homicide but added that he had “significant” underlying conditions, including hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.But an examination funded by Floyd’s family reached a somewhat different conclusion. It found that police officers’ pressing on his neck and body cut blood and air flow to his brain, causing him to die by mechanical asphyxia, pathologists hired by the family said.The autopsy paid for by the family also found that Floyd had no other medical conditions that contributed to his death.
    Benjamin Crump, the civil rights attorney representing Floyd’s family, on Wednesday released a statement on behalf of the family: “This is a bittersweet moment. We are deeply gratified that Attorney General Keith Ellison took decisive action, arresting and charging all the officers involved in George Floyd’s death and upgrading the charge against Derek Chauvin to felony second-degree murder.”
    Crump said on the “TODAY” show on Tuesday that he expected the charges to be filed against the other three officers and that the family’s autopsy report was significant because it “pays particular attention to the two knees at the back compressing his lungs.”
    Since the beginning of 2015, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department have rendered people unconscious with neck restraints 44 times, according to an NBC News analysis of police records. Several police experts told NBC News that number appears to be unusually high.
    The Minnesota Department of Human Rights on Tuesday filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis Police Department to launch an investigation. The probe will look at the department’s policies, procedures, and practices over the past 10 years to determine if it engaged in systemic discriminatory practices, Gov. Tim Walz said.

    In June 1940 the Navy had 4,007 African-American personnel, representing 2.3 percent of its total strength of nearly 170,000. All of these African Americans were enlisted men, and with the exception of six regular-rated seamen, all were steward’s mates. They were characterized by the black press as “seagoing bellhops.” Within a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the number of African Americans in the Navy had increased to 5,026; however, they were still restricted to working as steward’s mates.[6]

    In late 1949, all-black USMC units persisted, but the Marines had black and white recruits beginning to train together. The few black USMC officers were assigned exclusively to black units; they were not asked to lead white Marines into combat. In 1952 after two years of the Korean War, the Marines cautiously integrated blacks into combat units.[7] In the late 1950s, black Marines were not rewarded with preferred or high-visibility assignments, such as embassy guard duty and guard duty in the nation’s capital.[7] By 1960, full integration of the races had been completed by the USMC, but racial tensions flared up through the next decade, a period of civil rights activism in the larger society.[7]

    Black Lives Matter in San Diego has it connection to Black Lives in Australia. The Star of India at the San Diego Maritime Museum once carried those from Great Britain to Australia – – being a part of Australia’s Black Lives story.

    1. Including results for star of india ship san diego.

    2.

    To me, the Star of India is a symbol of San Diego and its connection with the sea. Originally named Euterpe and built as a full-rigged iron ship on the Isle of Man in 1863, she has had an exciting history. Renamed the Star of India and re-rigged as a Barque (since 1901) she is now the flagship of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
    Star of India – Little Italy – San Diego, CA

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/star-of-india-san-diego-2

    Image: abc.net.au
    Mabo Day on June 3rd, celebrates the life and work of Eddie Mabo who fought to disprove terra nullius. We look at the life and legacy of Mabo. Kaurna, Bungalong, Yolngu and hundreds of others. These are the first nations of Australia each with their own language, traditions, laws and a relationship to land that goes back thousands of years.
    Mabo Day & Native Title: Who was Eddie Mabo & what is his …

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBJ_OjnPgYA

    Aboriginal resistance
    See also: Australian Frontier Wars and History of Indigenous Australians
    Aboriginal reactions to the sudden arrival of British settlers were varied, but often hostile when the presence of the colonisers led to competition over resources, and to the occupation by the British of Aboriginal lands. European diseases decimated Aboriginal populations, and the occupation or destruction of lands and food resources led to starvation. By contrast with New Zealand, where the Treaty of Waitangi was seen to legitimise British settlement, no treaty was signed with the Eora people of Sydney Cove, nor any of the other Aboriginal peoples in Australia.
    According to the historian Geoffrey Blainey, in Australia during the colonial period:
    In a thousand isolated places there were occasional shootings and spearings. Even worse, smallpox, measles, influenza and other new diseases swept from one Aboriginal camp to another… The main conqueror of Aborigines was to be disease and its ally, demoralisation.[55]
    Since the 1980s, the use of the word “invasion” to describe the British colonisation of Australia has been highly controversial. According to Australian Henry Reynolds however, government officials and ordinary settlers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries frequently used words such as “invasion” and “warfare” to describe their presence and relations with Aboriginal Australians. In his book The Other Side of the Frontier,[56] Reynolds described in detail armed resistance by Aboriginal people to white encroachments by means of guerrilla warfare, beginning in the eighteenth century and continuing into the early twentieth.

    Statue of Yagan on Heirisson Island
    In the early years of colonisation, David Collins, the senior legal officer in the Sydney settlement, wrote of the local Aboriginal people:
    While they entertain the idea of our having dispossessed them of their residences, they must always consider us as enemies; and upon this principle they [have] made a point of attacking the white people whenever opportunity and safety concurred.[57]
    In 1847, Western Australian barrister E.W. Landor stated: “We have seized upon the country, and shot down the inhabitants, until the survivors have found it expedient to submit to our rule. We have acted as Julius Caesar did when he took possession of Britain.”[58] In most cases, Reynolds says, Aboriginal people initially resisted British presence. In a letter to the Launceston Advertiser in 1831, a settler wrote:
    We are at war with them: they look upon us as enemies—as invaders—as oppressors and persecutors—they resist our invasion. They have never been subdued, therefore they are not rebellious subjects, but an injured nation, defending in their own way, their rightful possessions which have been torn from them by force.[59]
    Reynolds quotes numerous writings by settlers who, in the first half of the nineteenth century, described themselves as living in fear and even in terror due to attacks by Aboriginal people determined to kill them or drive them off their lands. He argues that Aboriginal resistance was, in some cases at least, temporarily effective; the killings of men, sheep and cattle, and burning of white homes and crops, drove some settlers to ruin. Aboriginal resistance continued well beyond the middle of the nineteenth century, and in 1881 the editor of The Queenslander wrote:
    During the last four or five years the human life and property destroyed by the aborigines in the North total up to a serious amount. […] [S]ettlement on the land, and the development of the mineral and other resources on the country, have been in a great degree prohibited by the hostility of the blacks, which still continues with undiminished spirit.[60]
    Reynolds argues that continuous Aboriginal resistance for well over a century belies the myth of peaceful settlement in Australia. Settlers in turn often reacted to Aboriginal resistance with great violence, resulting in numerous indiscriminate massacres by whites of Aboriginal men, women and children.[61] Among the most famous massacres of the early nineteenth century were the Pinjarra massacre, the Myall Creek massacre, and the Rufus River massacre.
    Famous Aboriginal men who resisted British colonisation in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries include Pemulwuy and Yagan, and many others went unrecorded. In Tasmania, the “Black War” was fought in the first half of the nineteenth century.

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