“I Can’t Breathe — Can We Hear?”

Editor’s Note: This statement was written by AdventHealth University President Edwin Hernández and sent to the AHU campus community on June 1, 2020. It is shared in full below:

Dear AHU family,

For George Floyd, my heart aches. For his family and friends, my being aches. For my Black brothers and sisters in Christ, my soul aches. The pain of another needless death at the hands of those sworn to protect lives is the worst kind of pain. This total disregard for human life reflects total blindness that the person crying out—I can’t breathe—is a human being, a child of God, created in the image of God.

I ask myself, what would I have done if I were a bystander listening to the cries of someone calling out for mercy, begging to breathe.

We are experiencing two pandemics—the stealthy killer of more than 103,000 Americans in less than three months—and the outrageous assassin that has taken countless Black and brown lives through slavery, lynching, economic marginalization, false accusations, mass incarceration, unjust imprisonment, and police brutality. Both are deadly killers. Both can be prevented.

The expression I can’t breathe has been heard from city streets, rural farms, and nursing homes across the U.S. and the world. It is the cry resulting from COVID19, suffocating the lungs and taking the lives of beloved family and friends.

The cry I can’t breathe also comes from children and young people being denied education because of failing school systems and prejudicial teachers. The words I can’t breathe protest the burden and unfairness of overrepresentation in the prison system and on death row. Cries of I can’t breathe come from families without access to essential health care. Pleas of I can’t breathe came from Eric Garner and now, George Floyd.

Just as the insidious Corona virus infects the bodies of vulnerable human beings, the communicable scourge of racism infects the most susceptible human cultures—together producing a perfect storm of death and despair that has erupted in protest.

Both silent killers require action. The inaction of government leaders earlier this year has resulted in a shocking toll of death and economic decline in the U.S. The inaction of police officers allowed one man’s knee to end another man’s life as he begged for mercy and cameras rolled. I can’t breathe. Failure to act is to participate in the crime.

What human sensibility and consciousness allows one to feel no sense of response to the pleading cries? What human being isn’t moved by the calls for help from a deceased mother? How cold does the heart have to be to not hear the grunting cries that I can’t breathe?

The pervasiveness of racism is no longer invisible. It is recorded far too often in the U.S. on personal phones… as a young man jogs along a road, as a professional man watches birds in a city park, as a police officer takes a knee to end a life. And, yet, even when the evidence is clear and seemingly irrefutable—people are acquitted, cases are dismissed.

The cries for justice rise to the heavens.

Today, I ask the AHU community to pause in solidarity with our Black colleagues and students. Express your care and concern. Let us grieve together. Let us pledge that we will create a beloved community that practices and teaches cultural humility.

The Christian community always thinks and acts from the future back. The future back is the perspective that hope triumphs over despair, love over hatred, peace over violence, unity over division. It is that future-back thinking and acting that is needed today. Let us remind the world that all are created equal and in God’s image (Gen 1:27), that there should be no barriers between us (Eph 3:14-18), and that all have value and stand equally in the sight of God (Gal 3:26-29).

Let us advance the truth that we are all equal in God’s sight, brimming with unmeasurable potential. Let us make AHU a place where human indifference and willful ignorance can’t breathe.

In solidarity for a peaceable kingdom in the here and now,

Edwin I. Hernández, PhD

President & CEO

AdventHealth University


Photo courtesy of AdventHealth University.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10482

Excellent overview of what we are facing today as Christians. I too was saddened and disappointed to see our President using God’s word as a prop. No one is condoning violence or the mayhem that has torn the fabric of our nation. We need to accept the challenge that Dr. Hernandez has presented to us. This Pandemic of Coronavirus is going to cause much death and suffering but the scourge of racism could impact our individual salvation for eternity. We are at a “nexus point” as individuals accountable to God!

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Dr. Hernandez’s point that “the Christian community must act from the future back.” is right on target. Hope should not be an incentive to escape into the future, but a powerful motivation for doing the truth now, in the present. The militarization of the police since 9/11 has given us two decades of policing with the citizenship as the enemy, unfortunately, with a racial component in the process. The training of policemen must be re-design, and the militarization of the police must be reversed. The time has come when the abuses of the past must be brought under the rule of law. It is high time for the citizens of this nation to take control of the government away from nationalist chauvinists and the merchants of death who think that any problem must be solved by going to war…


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I hope that your suggested replacement are not these guys:

there’s a new religion in town.

i heard an interesting discussion on TV yesterday: apparently there’s evidence that in the same way the GOP has been working systematically to take over the legal system, white supremacists have been working to take over law enforcement, mainly as a way for law enforcement to not look too closely into their activities…apparently the FBI has been warning about this for some time:

if this is true, and it seems it is, it would explain why blacks, in particular, are so often a PD target…it also suggests that we may not have systemic racism in society so much as we have it in law enforcement, and that law enforcement has been developing into an arm of white nationalism without anyone knowing it…

this in turn suggests that the way forward, in the wake of the floyd murder, isn’t so much an entire overhaul of society, as it is of law enforcement, with a definite, focused intent to route out white nationalists among working cops and recruitments…

connected to this may be a review of some of the judges appointed during the trump era, particularly those who seem unqualified on paper…that is, maybe their real qualification is some kind of affiliation with white nationalism, unbeknownst to anyone except trump and those immediately involved in their nomination…we know that trump has had problems disavowing david duke…we also know that trump’s father has had a murky association with the KKK:


This is enviable. Just last night a large group of individuals broke down the doors and windows of local Super Walmart to carry off electronics. The next day the entire store closed at 5:00 pm, all boarded up. As police chase the perpetrators, how can they not but be seen as an “enemy” to society? The problem is if the majority of the looters are black, sad to say racism will become a factor in police control.

I wish this issue was not so politicized. Last night a new anchor was fired for saying, “all lives matter,” for it was seen as not addressing the issue of racism.

That the video of a policeman’s knee on a black man’s neck sparked a strong reaction from the public, both black and white, is not surprising. That it gave opportunity for militant groups to vandalized properties is most to be regretted, and condemned. The problem is that the police chiefs saw that video before anyone else, and they apparently thought it was just routine.


I wouldn’t rule that out as plausible, but you can’t really dump all of the police misconduct in this country on “white supremacy infiltration”, given that statistics doesn’t support it when it comes to analysis of the police encounter studies that have done relatively recently.


“We found that the race of the officer doesn’t matter when it comes to predicting whether black or white citizens are shot," Cesario said. "If anything, black citizens are more likely to have been shot by black officers, but this is because black officers are drawn from the same population that they police. So, the more black citizens there are in a community, the more black police officers there are.”

The violence on the police force is generally due to citizens who are not educated enough about the job of the police as the executive force that detains people who are suspect in wrongdoing.

The more someone retaliates, the more someone will be a subject to police violence escalation. It is inconvenient and demoralizing, and I’ve experienced it first hand, but I’ve also been on ride-alongs and seen what police have to deal with first hand. It’s not easy. People should be educated in what police role in society is, what their rights are, and the proper conduct in these situations. It’s generally the improper conduct that can spiral out of control.

So, the question is always about the cross-section of violence against violence that we have to conciser. How much violence from police are we comfortable with, and what are we willing to forgive as incidental negligence that individuals involved should be punished for as opposed to some systemic issue?

I don’t think that we can make the police to be the ultimate scapegoat in all of this… given that they are not responsible for poverty and violence in these neighborhoods. They are preventing and guarding against violence in these neighborhoods. Removing them or taking the tools away from them would likely result from more violence, and more anarchy.

There should be some rational middle ground.

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i agree…i also wonder whether the problem has to do with who the PD rounds up for legitimate crime most often…if it’s blacks who really are committing most of the crime, maybe the PD becomes conditioned to looking at them as criminals…and over time, blacks become categorized as problems, and so become dehumanized…that’s apparently what happened in the arbery case in georgia…there really had been two burglaries committed by someone who was black, and who looked like arbery…

i’m pretty sure that’s what’s happened in canada with aboriginals…the RCMP are forever rounding up them up from city streets, where they really do cause a lot of problems for others because they’re drunk so much of the time…as it is now, the RCMP are quite rough with aboriginals when they round them up for something…i’ve even seen them push staggering drunk aboriginals onto the ground on news videos…i think aboriginals are as dehumanized by the police up here as blacks are in the states…but the cause may just be who is actually committing the most crime, and who the cops are dealing with the most day in and day out…

is it realistic to expect cops to treat everybody with dignity and respect each and every time, especially during the rough and tumble of an arrest for a crime that actually happened…after-all cops are people, too…they’re going to get worked up when the situation is dangerous and tense, just like anyone else would…

I’m sure it’s part of it, although the pool of people that are selected into the force, and the requirements are much more strict than military, so it should tell you something. You can be turned down if you have traffic violations, if you have any history of abusive behavior… including self-abuse with drugs, alcohol, or smoking, or even tattoos… and your social media would be combed for questionable posts. Having a low credit score could actually have you turned down too.

Of course, in some places the choices wouldn’t be as diverse, but generally the police force is not your average citizen. I think the fact that police have lower divorce rate than general population in spite of the high-stress job that they are going through, should be indicative of some psychological stability of the kind of people that get to be selected.

My police buddies are very cautious about what they do “off duty”, since their continual employment and subsequent pension benefits depends on them maintaining their upright status, since once you are off the force… you are out of a job in that field.

One of my buddies was telling me a story about him detaining some drunk driver when he was “off duty” as he was constantly paranoid about some lawyer potentially charging it as a kidnapping with a firearm… which could technically be the case.

So, what happened in Arbery’s case is very uncharacteristic of police, or former police behavior in situations like these. But, then again, the guy sent his son to stop Arbery… so who know what he was thinking.

It depends what you direct realistic expectations towards. I think it’s realistic to expect, much like when one goes to a doctor, one can realistically expect not to be harmed by negligence. On the other hand, medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of death in the US. We don’t really see people rioting over doctor botching a surgery or prescription. But we can easily inject a statistical scenario in which white doctors cause disproportional harm to black patients if we ignore certain health risk factors that tend to be more of a problem in poor black neighborhoods.

I think we should be more compassionate for both sides in these tragic cases, and give the system a chance to work before we demand it to shift to our elevated expectations of justice that are generally uninformed and reactionary. There are army of prosecutors and “armchair lawyers” who demand justice, yet have very little understand of the process in which justice works in the US.

So, I tend to think that both justice system and police have more of a PR problem than they have an issue with systemic racism. They are not doing enough “community TED talks” in order to explain why things the way these are, and how to change them.

I do think that prison industrial complex is a big problem, and that drugs offenses should come down in severity if not dropped all together in favor of mandatory rehab, and it would be a very good step in prison reform. But we’ve already made good progress on that front.

Unfortunately, the recent events likely set race relations back several decades… especially in context of political system with civil war already in progress. I don’t think either side will accept the results of the upcoming election as legitimate… and that will be the biggest problem this country ever faced. I am a centrist, and the amount of vitriol on each side is astounding.

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lower divorce rates could also be connected to higher salaries…i think most divorces happen over money:

well at this point, thousands of people of all races have been marching on the streets for 9 days and nights…i think this suggests they have more than a PR problem…

on the other hand, 40 million people are out of work, with nothing else to do (some people say 50 million people are out of work)…i think the confluence of covid and the floyd murder, and now with trump using the military to clear protesters so he can stage his pathetic photo op, is bringing your country to a defining moment…if trump goes on to suppress the vote in order to eke out a win in november, i’d say you’re in for a fascist future…the only people speaking out are retired…but the GOP congress, which could do something, is electing not to…they are shaping your future even though the dems control the house…

@vandieman, thanks for your input which delineates a national and world perspective…

Pro_29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

The structure of our United States is predicated on a few structures on which the “law of the land resides”.

There is a federal separation of duties, executive, legislative, and judicial. All three of these no longer have the “confidence of the citizenry of the United States”. This is evidenced repeatedly in the lack of respect during any voting procedure in the both the house and senate. And during presidential speeches (this happens on both sides of the isle), the most egregious was Nancy Pelosi tearing the documents up during the speech.

The gauntlet of political assassination of each supreme court justice nominee lowers the bar even further. And lastly the less than respectful tone and respect for the office of the president, which has further eroded over the last 20 years. My point is … neither democratic nor republican, its specifically that as an American citizen (at the highest functional level) I am bound morally and by law to support the regard for human life (the lack of represented in the Minneapolis debacle, and subsequent NON-appropriate violent protesting) - which drowns out the Floyd narrative – mainly I am a human being and a citizen, and my value is first as an American — until this is the focus and concern of the large majority of Americans – chaos, and confusion, and ideological dehumanization will worsen.
Racial inequality does not “overshadow” our American priority for this should come first out of moral and human decency - one Nation under God… with liberty and justice for all.

I’ve read several commentaries on the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_Republic especially the section on how the transfer in power took place.

A large number of American citizens do not realize that in times of martial law, a governmental restructuring can take place. You may not realize it but the control of your freedom to move, seek health assistance, how you can worship, and congregate is already being limited.

Here is the specific section which is most telling. If we do not stop the lawlessness who knows where we end up as a country.

The passage of the Enabling Act of 1933 is widely considered to mark the end of the Weimar Republic and the beginning of the Nazi era. It empowered the cabinet to legislate without the approval of the Reichstag or the President, and to enact laws that were contrary to the constitution. Before the March 1933 elections, Hitler had persuaded Hindenburg to promulgate the Reichstag Fire Decree using Article 48, which empowered the government to restrict “the rights of habeas corpus […] freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications” and legalized search warrants and confiscation “beyond legal limits otherwise prescribed”. This was intended to forestall any action against the government by the Communists. Hitler used the provisions of the Enabling Act to pre-empt possible opposition to his dictatorship from other sources, in which he was mostly successful.

Habeas Corpus is a recourse in law through which a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the custodian of the person, usually a prison official, to bring the prisoner to court, to determine whether the detention is lawful.
The writ of habeas corpus is known as the “great and efficacious writ in all manner of illegal confinement”

This means you effectively have no rights as a citizen under martial law (as directed by the governmental decision).

with kind regards,


I think Trump Bible stint was a code signal for people who understand what it means. It’s not an arbitrary behavior from Trump… I could be wrong, but it seems very direct.

The riots were not about George Floyd, because while angry mobs were tearing down American cities… we have this coming from World Economic Forum.

In short… all of this is a catalyst for recycling the original plan A, in which green-based currency is driven by certain responsible set of behaviors, which may integrate a wide range of other incentives for businesses to engage in social justice and “green economy” normalization.

It will be interesting.

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Jeremy,experienced mental health professionals know that cases of domestic violence are underreported among police officers as compared to the general population. Officers’ wives are more afraid of reporting someone who carries a gun legally everywhere, all the time. Fear is certainly a factor related to less cases of divorce as well.


If everything else fails, as it has been failing so far, Trump’s last card is, undoubtedly, martial law. Forget the elections unless he is kicked out of office quickly now! He is losing it, he is going berserk!

Maybe violating the 1st amendment rights sending a bunch of unidentified officers to attack a peaceful crowd of protesters, just for a photo op, may have been just a test to check how much he can violate the Constitution without being repudiated.

General Mattis is right on the money.

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The Great Reset is frightening for those who value freedom and autonomy.

The New World Order is on our doorstep, if not already one foot in the door.

Racism is a state of mind. No one, not the government, a religion. an activist group cannot change a mind. Only you and you alone in co-operation with the Holy Spirit or Satan is able to affect mental changes… That is your God given right to be in total control of your thoughts and choices Even God respects that. In Nazi Germany ,Hitler thought that the problems of that society were the Jewish people That was all in his deluded mind and he got a lot of people to believe and buy into it. You are free to believe what ever you choose BUT what you believe will exercise control over your mind and spills over to your behaviour.-It is especially damaging to the mind to believe in lies. That’s a technique perfected by Satan in the very beginning of human history. Getting you to believe in lies is a powerful force for evil
So, for what it’s worth , I don’t know what the police man’s state of mind was at the time of the crime.What were his actions motivated by ? If you think you know , then you’re, a mind reader. and is not sufficient grounds to react with indignation His behaviour is certainly easy to condemn. But to assume that his actions were race related is not for you or I to know. What if the victim was other than black, would all the reaction be less publicised, less volatile? All the rioting and property damage is inexcusable Again, if you believe the officer was acting out his hatred for blacks , then I ask ,how do you know ? The reaction being sponsored now could be interpreted as all white police officers are prejudiced toward people who are not like them and therefore they are not to be trusted. All Jews are not to be trusted because they’re Jewish and deserve collective condemnation. I think the parallel fits
In summary prejudice will always be part of our human condition and is based on ignorance and lies .Lies believed results in loss of love and trust and replaced by fear and selfishness What is most troubling is that if I don’t believe like you then I need to be vilified. Sorry but I will not be told what to believe. That is matter between my mind and God alone
Just to be sure I am not defending the officers criminal behaviour It speaks for it self What I am also troubled by is all the “righteous indignation” being expressed without knowing the unknowable namely the state of mind I find it to be a " holier -than -thou" attitude that rings hollow in my mind. Side bar - in case you’re curious I am Japanese and experienced prejudice first hand but hold no animosity toward white people or an race save for behaviour that is demonstrably egregious It’s the behaviour not the individual per say. Final questions What is your motive for your reaction to this crime?. Would it be different if the victim was other than black? Your answer could be revealing as to your state of mind.
Dave Okamura

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