May 25, 2020 changed America’s trajectory. On that day, Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. This murder sparked protests in cities across America. Protestors demanded change to the treatment of Black and Brown individuals, in every sector of life. This was an opportune time to address the disadvantages communities of color have been facing, inequities which have gone unaddressed for years. In part to address these injustices, companies made commitments to diversify their staff and local governments passed legislation to protect people of color. These advances were marked as a form of justice but were really bandaid solutions. While some felt gratitude for the new awareness of racism in White communities, these “solutions” did not heal the underlying infection. These initiatives didn’t address the racism that would still persist, even if more Black and Brown people were hired. The deeper goal should have been structural, systemic change, not just better representation.
On April 20th of this year, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second- degree murder, third-degree murder, and second- degree manslaughter. Tears of joy streamed down the faces of those who desired this justice as a solution, as a representation of change. Those same people soon came to realize, they still did not have peace about the situation. What they previously defined as justice, became defined as accountability. This conviction, what was initially thought to be the ultimate symbol of justice, no longer felt like enough. The popular sentiment on social media was, “yes this feels good, but George Floyd should never have died in the first place.”
Even though external “justice” was achieved, souls desired something deeper—for racism and prejudice to end completely, not just for racism and prejudices to be punished. A world in which police do not murder Black people, a world in which systemic oppression doesn’t exist. Justice was served legally but not emotionally. The burden carried by Black and Brown individuals globally from this case did not lift when Derek Chauvin went to jail. On paper, justice has been served, in hearts, this case will live until racism ends.
Racism and prejudice are the root of the issues that harm communities of color. Racism needs to be abolished. Every other form of justice is a bandaid to the deeper issue. The end of racism is the true justice our souls long for. In order for racism to end, a “heart change” needs to occur.
Protests can be had, education on systemic oppression can be required and charges can be made against racists, but unless racists understand the wrong in their actions and feel a personal conviction to change the way they perceive others, things will stay the same. Advocating for heart change, along with the external aids to inform and indict is the strategy for reform but the priority should be a healthy heart. A healthy heart is filled with love, selflessness, compassion and empathy. Racism has no room in a heart like that. America’s heart is currently filled with greed, pride, selfishness and indifference. America is made of people so once the peoples’ hearts change, so will the country itself (structure, systems, patterns, etc.).
How does reformation of the heart occur? True repentance. Repentance is the recognition that something has been done wrong and then being humble enough to say, I will no longer do things this way, now that I know it’s wrong. It’s renewing the mind, no longer thinking or enabling old habits that do not align with a new thought process (Romans 12:2). When White people do not want to admit their actions are racist, it is a pride issue. They lack the humility to admit that they are wrong. Therefore, how do you get someone to be humble? Prayer. Humility is not something that can be forced. The more it is forced, the angrier and more prideful the individual becomes.
Ezekiel 36:26 says, God will give us hearts of flesh. This means He will make our hearts filled with empathy, compassion and understanding; human love. This drastic reformation of the heart is only something God has the authority to do. There is no other reason to truly transform and become humble, unless you have the personal conviction through a deity that requires you to be self- reflective and change. We must pray to God, to humble and transform the hearts of those who have prejudices against others because of their skin tone.
Prayer is only effective if the heart is pure of the one praying. The prayers of the righteous prevail (James 5:16). Meaning an individual who whole – heartedly believes anything will come to pass, will come to pass. When praying for racists, there must be an unwavering belief that God has the supernatural authority to soften their hearts to humility. Prayer with the wrong heart posture is ineffective. What will happen when the faith filled prayers are answered and our white counterparts are ready to ask for forgiveness for enabling systemic racism because God convicted their hearts? Will people of color believe or be ready to accept forgiveness from our white counterparts? Prayers should not only be made for the racists, but the individuals who the racists offended. Tension and division will still occur if people of color do not reconcile with White people after the change of heart. Progress is two-fold. Will justice be served? Yes, because the justice is that racism no longer exists in their hearts but progression isn’t made with just racism being done with. It’s made when collaboration and community is established to reform the systems. That can only occur if everyone is reconciled with the mental and emotional capacity to move forward. This is the solution in reformation – revival. A change in the heart health of people across America.
The priority is prayer but the protests, education, and indictments cannot be neglected. These will be the tools to aid in accountability of the heart changes that occur as a result of prayer. Both prayer and protests are necessary but prayer triumphs protests because without the change of heart the protests are in vain. This will lead to a long- lasting collaboration of reforming America’s systems. This is how inner healing will lead to reformation.
Shelby Denise Smith is a freelance news + reform writer. She's previously worked in production at CBS News and NBC New York. Her most recent writings have been featured in Essence Magazine, NBC LX and BOLD TV.