I know many of us have watched the news these last few nights with such troubled hearts about what is happening in our nation. My caution to all of us (especially those of us who are not people of color) is to not forget about George Floyd. Yes, there have been riots. Yes, there has been looting. Yes, there has been unnecessary violence and all these things are wrong.
The sad truth is these criminal acts have overshadowed the killing of a black man by the police over an alleged fake twenty-dollar bill. The death of George Floyd is an incredible tragedy. It is up to all of us to not lose sight of this tragedy and the reasons why it and so many other killings in our country’s recent past have lit a fuse in the hearts and minds of people around the country.
For many of us we simply do not understand why people riot. I heard one individual on television today say there were protests on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week and there was little to no violence. Then on Thursday there was violence and riots in the streets of Minnesota.
By late Friday morning, officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged in the killing of George Floyd. This commentator asked the question – what message does that send to the African American community? His answer, if you want justice…it does not come through peaceful protest.
Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of riots as the voice of those who are unheard. You can see his comments in this clip from the old 60 Minutes TV show.
I have to be honest; I have little to no understanding of what the American experience is like for any African Americans. I am beginning to understand that my American experience is very unlike theirs. I have been pulled over by the police several times in my adult life and I never once worried that my encounter with the police would result in my arrest – much less losing my life.
When we hear the names and see the faces of the African Americans that have been needlessly killed in confrontations with the police it begins to become clear that people of color do worry about being killed by the police. And this belief and worry is in fact – not without cause.
Let me make a couple of important statements here. I am not anti-police. I have a great appreciation for our police officers. Many of those I consider friends are active or retired police. In talking with a couple of them, they agreed that the officer acted criminally in his killing of Mr. Floyd. The vast majority of police officers are good people trying their best to do a very difficult job well.
They hope to serve their entire careers without having to pull their sidearm much less shoot or kill anyone. As has been said many times, there are a few bad apples, but most of the police are good and honorable public servants. We often become angry when all police are painted with the same bad apple brush!
We should view those who are protesting the death of George Floyd in the same grace filled way we view the police. Are there some bad apples within the protestors? Of course, we have seen this for the past several nights. Those who riot and loot and commit acts of violence are the bad apples.
Most of those who are marching and protesting are good and honorable people. They are our fellow Americans – and they are hurting and they are heart-broken over another African American being killed at the hands of the police. In their pain these protestors want to be heard! They call out for justice because of the injustice that was done to Mr. Floyd and others.
They long to be understood. One of the organizers of the march here in Richmond called out to the crowd asking why they were marching – the response that came back was – “Love.” Most of these protestors simply want to see the needless killing of African Americans come to an end. That is easy to understand and we should all be in agreement on this point.
I may not know much about the experience of a black person living in America but I know a man’s life is worth more than $20 – no matter the color of his skin. I wish I had more answers. I wish I had a better understanding of what is happening. I am searching for that understanding. May we all continue to strive for understanding so that real change can happen and liberty and justice for all will be a reality.