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Edith Guffey: Let’s talk about the right to life (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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There’s been a lot of talk about the right to life the last several weeks. Let’s talk about that. But let’s talk about the right to life of those who are already born; say Black people. What about OUR right to life? 

Buffalo, New York. Thirteen people shot, 10 killed, all of whom were Black. We don’t have to wonder why this happened; the “alleged” shooter who was captured on the scene gave plenty of information explaining his actions. 

Remember that phrase chanted in Charlottesville, “You will not replace us”? That’s “replacement theory,” the theory that Black people and other people of color are “replacing” white people and taking over this country. The answer: Stop them. Eighteen-year-old Payton Gendron believes this theory, and he set out to do his part to stop Black people. He researched, planned, and intentionally selected an area of Buffalo with a high concentration of Black people. And he carried out his mission of terror, killing Black people. 

On a Saturday afternoon, 10 Black people were found guilty, convicted, and executed. The charge: Shopping while Black.

I want to respect the beliefs of those who profess to honor the “sanctity of life,” but I admit I am confused when some of those same voices aren’t outraged about the senseless taking of Black lives. They can’t even bring themselves to say that Black Lives Matter. 

How outraged are they about the shooting in Buffalo or the replacement theory that fed it? Are they calling, writing, marching, and demanding that politicians and television personalities that espouse support for this outrageous theory be held accountable? Why aren’t they outraged that federal legislation was never passed that could have transformed policing across the country — legislation that possibly could save the lives of hundreds of Black people, and Black men in particular? 

May 25 will mark the two-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. There was that moment in the summer following his death that many thought that maybe, just maybe we were finally turning a corner. It seemed that so many people were “waking up” to the realities of systemic racism and white supremacy. There was this air of hopeful possibility that this country was ready to make substantive changes that would result in addressing the underlying causes of what we saw in Minneapolis. 

But racism and white supremacy are just like the pandemic. When they feel under attack, they just double down and reveal themselves in more horrific and brazen ways — January 6, 2021, and most recently, the shooting in Buffalo. 

There’s no vaccine for white supremacy. The only answer is white people who are courageous, mad, and finally ready to stand up, speak up, and fight against systems of oppression and white supremacy. Black people cannot do this alone.

I shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of my adult children. I should be able to drive, to go shopping — in Buffalo, in Lawrence, anywhere — without fear.

No more book studies, no more talk, no more prayers. 

Black people have a right to life. 

— Edith Guffey recently retired from a 30-year career with the United Church of Christ. After serving at the national offices located in Cleveland, Ohio, Edith and her husband Jerry returned to Lawrence and Edith served as the Conference Minister of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference until she retired at the end of 2021. You will find her at home in Lawrence trying to understand what it actually means to be retired and trying to figure out the complexities of the pandemic so she and Jerry can travel for fun instead of work. Read more of Edith’s work for the Times at this link.

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