Although not knowing all the details, we know enough to be deeply disturbed by the events of 25 May. Those who viewed those eight minutes and 46 seconds won’t forget them.
It is wrong that a person died at the hands of a police officer, pleading: ‘Please, the knee in my neck, I can’t breathe … Mama! … My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts … Don’t kill me.’
Despite recordings showing the police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck till he was motionless, and not even moving after Floyd became deathly still, the following morning the Minneapolis Police Department issued a statement titled: ‘Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction’. There was no mention of (now former) Officer Chauvin’s deadly actions, attributing Floyd’s death to a pre-existing medical condition.
As it became obvious, even to the police, that the story they put out wasn’t going to be accepted, the officers involved in the incident were fired. It became known that Chauvin had received 18 complaints on his official record, two of which resulted in discipline including official letters of reprimand.
It was then that nights of protest began, across the United States and into Europe. Many chanted Floyd’s last words: ‘I can’t breathe’, ensuring his death was not forgotten. They were perhaps also expressing in visceral terms the stifling feelings wrought by acts of discrimination, both structural and everyday, still faced by so many.
A Christian responds
Christian blogger, Samuel Sey, wrote the first of several well-thought-through essays as the rippling anger turned to waves, moving thousands of people to take to the streets across both the US and the world in response to Floyd’s horrific death.
‘What makes George Floyd’s killing especially disturbing to me is that, unlike most recordings of people who get unjustly killed by police officers, Floyd’s distressed face and distressed words are so clearly seen and so clearly heard before he dies.
‘Just as Floyd’s [alleged] unjust attempt to defraud the deli doesn’t justify the police officers’ unjust actions against him, the police officers’ sins do not justify our sins either. We will all be accountable to God for our unjust and sinful actions. God gives us freedom to grieve; He gives us freedom to be angry. But He doesn’t give us freedom to sin while we are grieving and while we are angry.
‘Some citizens in Minneapolis are using the injustice against Floyd as justification for their own unjust, destructive actions. They are using Floyd’s killing to sin. They are rioting, stealing, assaulting others, and destroying property. We shouldn’t be like them. We shouldn’t react with unjust, destructive behaviour on social media either. If we’re angered by the police officers’ unrighteous behaviour, we shouldn’t react in an unrighteous manner too.
‘Therefore, we shouldn’t make any conclusions about the incident – including the police officer’s motivations and Floyd’s character – if it isn’t explicit in the video recordings.
‘Those of us who reject social justice ideology might be tempted to allow the opportunism and foolishness of others to cloud our own judgement. But we shouldn’t allow those who cry wolf to make us deaf to real, genuine growls of wolves.
Just like me
‘And you’ve probably noticed I haven’t mentioned the police officers’ skin colour and, especially, Floyd’s skin colour. I haven’t mentioned George Floyd was a black man. I haven’t mentioned the police officers apparently consisted of one white man, one Asian man, one brown man, and one black man. I haven’t mentioned that Derek Chauvin, the officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck, is a white man.
‘I didn’t mention that because when I watched the horrific video, I didn’t see a black man – just like me – unjustly killed by a white police officer. I simply saw a human – just like me – unjustly killed by police officers.
‘That doesn’t mean Floyd wasn’t a victim of racism. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. I don’t know. All I know is: four people like me apparently unjustly killed another person like me.
‘I look forward to the day when I won’t have to see this anymore. And I especially I look forward to the day when Jesus won’t have to see this anymore – when He returns to execute perfect justice.’
Samuel Sey blogs at slowtowrite.com