On June 4, I was returning from early morning Mass for religious sisters across Midtown Manhattan when, on 48th Street, I entered the pedestrian protective tunnel of a construction site.
There was an African American construction worker on the other side of the tunnel who, as I approached, asked at high volume, presumably for his fellow workers to hear, “Are you heading out to protest, Father?”
Because of the mask he was wearing, I couldn’t really be sure of his tone, but it seemed like a friendly query.
“Are you a Christian?” I asked him, figuring that if he used the term “Father,” the odds were good.
“Yes,” he replied with pride.
“Well, as a Christian,” I smiled and said, “I protest on both knees.”
He looked at me quizzically, seeming to request elaboration.
“Our first protest against evil is not to drop to one knee, like football players, but to drop to both knees in prayer, crying out to God for forgiveness for the evil of racism, for the wicked killing of George Floyd and other victims, for the sinister rampage of destruction and looting that have harmed so many businesses and led most others to have to board up their windows. We drop to our knees and beg God for help to fight against and repair these evils.”
He paused as he processed what I was saying and then nodded his covered chin in agreement.
“So would you like to march with me to church,” I asked amicably, “where we can protest together before the Lord?”
He replied with a laugh, “I have to work!”
“Then I guess I’ll march for both of us!” I concluded and gave him a hearty socially-distanced wave goodbye that he reciprocated with “Thanks!”
I have been doing a lot of double-kneed protesting over the last couple of weeks.
To protest means, according to its Latin roots, to “give witness” (testari) “on behalf of” or “in front of” (pro) others.
I have been regularly going before the Lord in reparation for the indefensible slaying of George Floyd; for the history of racial injustice that blacks have suffered in the U.S. all the way back to the evil of slavery at our national origin; for police officers who have become corrupted and for those who attack the good ones because of the bad; for the decades of inadequate responses, tokenism and political exploitation blacks continue to suffer from various leaders; and for the need of a movement to help convince others of what should be both obvious and culturally and legally ensured, that black lives matter.
I have also been building up knee calluses in response to the evil I’ve seen in New York City by those using the protests as a cover for anarchic destruction, organized crime and brazen robbery.
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