Editor’s note: This story is the third in a series of five in which Will County black male pastors respond to the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed.
Edward L Winfrey Jr., senior pastor and founder of The Way Church of Joliet, feels the issue of racism needs to be addressed in multifaceted ways.
That includes people taking responsibility for their own prejudices and then working to eradicate them.
“My prayer is that we begin to wake up as a country and realize our own faults and really work hard toward making small changes,” Winfrey said. “Everyone, I think, has the capability to do that, to reach out to someone who may not look like you.
“At the end of the day, we are more alike than we are different. The more we interact with one another, the more we will realize that.”
Winfrey understands why people are upset. From the video, Winfrey could not see George Floyd resisting arrest or engaging in any behavior that warranted the tactics shown in the video, he said.
“He did not deserve to have a knee on his neck,” Winfrey said. “If he was already handcuffed, they should have placed him in the car or on the curb and take him in and let the court handle it.”
Winfrey also said a strong message needs to be sent to law enforcement that “they do not stand around and watch” this type of behavior.
He feels protests are great and can lead to unity. He said he does not condone rioting, but he does understands the frustration that leads to them.
An example is the beating of Rodney King in 1991, he said.
“I know there are good police officers; I know some of them,” Winfrey said. “And I know there are police officers who want to do the right things. The culture that allowed these things is what has to stop.”
Winfrey said racism also needs to be examined from a spiritual perspective, “which is difficult to do because not all people are going to look at it from that perspective,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we’re all broken people, right?” Winfrey said. “So I think that just having a high level of respect for humanity would begin the process.”
Also, law enforcement should “own up” to the systemic issues that have prevailed over the years in U.S. culture and take strong measures to fix them, Winfrey said.
And he’s seen no indication that it will happen any time soon, he added.
“Unfortunately, there’s probably been far more cases like that we just don’t know about because they’re not recorded,” Winfrey said. “If this one was not recorded, we would not be taking about it.”
Not until law enforcement makes lasting, fundamental changes and amends for its past behaviors will people begin to trust in “those who are supposed to protect and serve,” Winfrey said.
Ultimately, Winfrey feels that “faith and faith in the gospel that I preach and teach and live by” is necessary for permanent change because all humanity is “broken” and can’t be reconciled without God.
“So my church is praying for unity,” Winfrey said. “And we’re continuing to pray for healing.”