George Floyd: A Bittersweet Victory
This summer, I protested the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor starting and ending at the same place Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated – the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. I had my mask on while we walked around downtown, sometimes kneeling and praying for the lives lost and that of those affected.
I protested to make a statement that their lives mattered and still matter in a country that often demonstrates the contrary. I wanted justice for the brothers and sister that were killed at the hands of white supremacy and questionable police practices.
Fast forward to April 20, 2021, the day America would find out if Derek Chauvin would be convicted for the murder of George Floyd. Truthfully, I had not been keeping up with the Floyd case on purpose. How many times had we been here? Listening to the prosecution and the defense set up their arguments, listening to experts, waiting for a jury verdict only to hear… “NOT GUILTY”.
I wanted to avoid the cycle of heartbreak this time and couldn’t bear to look at any news of the trial. The date of the verdict had actually snuck up on me. I debated turning my phone on airplane mode and cutting myself off from the world, if only to delay news I would inevitably hear soon enough. To my genuine shock, a friend who had be keeping up with the case texted me saying, “Guilty on ALL 3 counts!” GUILTY! So why didn’t I feel like celebrating?
Maybe it’s because America was only 1 of 3 (so far) in guilty verdicts of the three people I had protested for this summer. Maybe it’s because just in the past week, I know the names of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and Anthony Thompson Jr. because the police murdered them.
Even when I heard the verdict of the present case, I couldn’t help but remember the Christians who believe George Floyd was a criminal who deserved to die. Even though the man who wrote over a quarter of the Bible had killed Christians before he met the Lord on Damascus (the book of Acts, 1 Corinthians 15:9). I think about King David who abused his authority and had a man killed because he lusted after his wife (2 Samuel 11, 12), yet was dubbed in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart.
Thank God for redemption, mercy, and many, many more chances that we don’t deserve. If only America and American Christians saw George Floyd as a Black man made in the image of God who wasn’t too far to receive mercy for his transgressions. Where could he be today if his life wasn’t taken by another sinner?
Where would Paul and David line up in today’s America? Would they have been vilified for their tan skin and imperfect lives and public transgressions? Would America value their lives or say they deserved death while denying the power of God’s saving grace?
As I reflect on the April 20th verdict, I attempt to hold both joy and sorrow together. Joy from the jury’s declaration that Black Lives Matter and the officer abused his authority without regard for life. Joy from seeing all that I fought for make a difference.
At the same time, I feel immense sorrow that George is dead and that his family will never get to hold him again. Sorrow that since the trial started, American police officers have killed an average of three people per day. Sorrow that I am surprised by this verdict but not convinced this will be the norm. Sorrow that I really just want police to stop killing Black people altogether.
It’s okay if this guilty verdict feels eerily bittersweet to you. I feel that too. Like our precious Lord, we can hold joy and sorrow in tandem as we celebrate a battle win in a long, gruesome war.