Ain't I a Human? Ain’t this America?

In 2019 the family of Ronald Greene was contacted by Louisiana State Police and notified he was killed in a car accident. In 2020, the world watched in horror for eight minutes as George Floyd plead for his life, called for his mother, and died at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve in Minnesota. In 2021, the video footage of Ronald Greene being beaten to death, tased while lying face down with his hands behind his back, writhing in pain, acknowledging “I am Afraid,” and crying for mercy was released.

His video is a grim reminder that what happened to George Floyd is not unique. Black bodies have been brutalized, black lives have been minimized and black people have been murdered since the beginnings of this country. For some reason, George Floyd made it apparent to many who hadn’t noticed before, shined a light on a reality that others had tucked safely into the darkness, and provided unmitigated proof that America has a deeply rooted problem.

The Founding Fathers in all of their “wisdom” remained silent about the genocide upon which America was forged. Despite this silence, they spoke clearly to affirm that Black-Americans were not fully human, but merely three-fifths of a human. Since that time, this message has been fortified and reiterated in ways that challenge any notion of recognizable humanity. Native Americans have been tucked safely away in reservations where they are “protected” yet suffer from higher rates of poverty and suicide and health challenges than seem imaginable. Their images only conjured in mass media as team mascots.  Black-Americans have been lynched without retribution, mutilated without remorse, and dragged and slain in more ways than I can name at the hands of unnamed individuals, unpunished mobs, and unrepentant police. Their lynchings, previously captured on postcards are now documented by police body cameras.

I hear my sisters and brothers calling out in cacophony, “Aint I a Human?” When Sojourner Truth considered the ways in which white women were revered and protected; when she witnessed the ways their gentility and femininity were affirmed and nurtured; when she experienced the contrast in how she was treated relative to those who shared her gender but not her color, she was compelled to ask, “Aint I a Woman?” These many years later, as I consider the ways in which white lives are revered and protected; when I witness the ways their worth and humanity are affirmed and nurtured; when I experience the contrast in how Sandra Bland and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ronald Greene are treated relative to those who share their species but not their color, I am compelled to ask, “Aint we Humans?” and “Aint I a Human?”  At no point does the question suggest lowering the bar for those who do receive the benefits of full humanity. It suggests that we need to raise the bar for those who do not.

Do #WhiteLivesMatter? YES! Do #BlueLivesMatter? ABSOLUTELY. Has the legitimacy of white or blue lives ever been challenged in a systematic or consistent way? NO. Has their value ever been questioned by law, constitution, or other official means of state? NO. Hence, the affirmation: #BlackLivesMatter. Perhaps this is the true question – are we sure that #BlackLivesMatter? They didn’t matter to the police who laughed about their brutality against them. They didn’t matter to the mobs who made postcards of their corpses. They didn’t even matter enough to all who stood silently by as these atrocities happened and continue to happen. They don’t matter to those who see the education gap, the health outcomes gap, or the wealth gap and do nothing to change it. They don’t matter to those who know bias exists – in the office, in the c-suites, in the courts, in the banks, in the country clubs, in the ads, in the contracts, in professional sports leadership, in the standardized tests, and more – and do nothing to challenge it. #DoBlackLivesMatter? Do they matter to you? Do they matter enough?

The reality of African-Americans’ historic “three-fifths-ness” is a pervasive influence woven into the fabric of the American economy, judicial system, education, and communities.  So, I cry out to America to do more than make good on her promise – for her promise only affirmed me as three-fifths, not a whole. I need the America I love to be the America I am no longer ashamed of – or afraid of. I don’t want to die – or fear that my daughters or son may die – prematurely from health issues or at the hands of a racist police officer. I don’t want to suffer – or fear that my daughters or son may suffer – due to inequity or profiling. I don’t want to watch – or know that my daughters or son or future generations will watch – a repeat of the reality we currently see. After all, Aint this America?

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

"99.8% of U.S. deaths are of the unvaccinated. If you heard of an airline of that percentage dying, whereas a 0.02% on another, you’re switching flights." -- Dr. Jimmie Smith, Macon-Bibb County Health Department, Georgia.
As a scholar of religious studies, I frequently use critical race theory as a tool to better understand how religion operates in American society.
Inspired by their faith, four LDS students built new study resource that has revolutionized how hundreds of thousands of aspiring physicians study for their exams. "It really started because we just wanted to help people," one said.
We're now in one of the holiest seasons of the year for one of smallest and oldest religions in India -- one with a long history in the United States.
Organizing on-campus vaccination clinics, calling thousands of students, hosting informational webinars with medical experts – these are some of the ways in which IFYC’s Faith in the Vaccine Ambassadors (FIVA) have been raising awareness around the COVID-19 vaccine on campuses and high-need communities across the nation.
Last year's winners, listed below, created a range of initiatives, from virtual retreats and criminal justice initiatives to book clubs and racial equity workshops.
Religious objections, once used sparingly around the country to get exempted from various required vaccines, are becoming a much more widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot.
What will the campus chapel, and the chaplaincy, look like more than a century from now? Let the adventure begin.
The issue is not the presence of religion in the public square. Instead, the question before us is how to express those religious commitments within in a pluralistic society.
We don’t know what the year 5782 – as it is in the Hebrew calendar – has in store for any of us. But we have the power to act in a way to do right by each other and bring a little more peace and love and joy into this profoundly broken world.
The following interview features Dr. Toby Bressler, senior director of nursing for oncology and clinical quality at the Mount Sinai Health System and vice president of the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association.
Part of what I found so beautiful about our conversation is that we both agree that American pluralism is not simply a pragmatic solution to the challenge of a diverse democracy, it is also a kind of sacred trust that God intends us to steward.
After 9/11, there was increased intentionality in widening interfaith relations to include a broader number of faith groups and discussions. Twenty years later, it is not unusual to see interreligious conferences, joint advocacy efforts and disaster relief teamwork involving faith groups ranging from Adventists to Zoroastrians.
Twenty years later, we at IFYC, like so many others, collect the shards of memory, recollecting, reconstituting the trauma and horror of that day. And the sacredness is in doing so together.
As we approach this significant anniversary of 9/11, we must work to infuse the day with purpose and pluralism. Pay it Forward 9/11 is bringing people together to do 20,000 good deeds for the 20th anniversary.
In the first month since 9/11, The Sikh Coalition documented over 300 cases of violence and religious discrimination against Sikhs in the U.S. and has since grown to become the largest Sikh advocacy and civil rights organization in the country.
“If you were to quiz these students on what happened on 9/11, they think they knew what happened, but nobody really explained it to them,” Lisa Doi said. “I had to think through, how do you teach this history to somebody who doesn’t really remember it?”
My prayer is that for as long as we remember 9/11, that we will take time to listen to the stories of loss that break our hearts, and join together in finding ways to heal the division, violence and hate that continue to tear apart our world.
It has been 20 years, but the pain of that day is still present in so many places.
20 years after the 9/11 attacks, four remarkable people took profound suffering, loss and grief and “somehow managed to not center enemies. What can we learn from that? How can that be a teaching to the culture?”
Now the entire planet is our garden, and Rosh Hashana is our chance to remember that we are all descended from the original gardeners — that we are here, each of one us, to tend our chosen plots as best we can.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.