On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by a police officer. He had tried to purchase something with a supposed counterfeit $20. Whether he knew it was counterfeit or not, I don’t think his crime warranted the punishment. And I could go on about the details surrounding this murder and what came afterward, but so many people have already done that. That’s not why I’m bringing it up now.
There have been some voices on social media that are trying to lessen the impact that George Floyd’s death had when he joined the ranks of undeserving black men being lynched on camera by another racist cop. They want to say, “Well, he must have done something wrong, or else they wouldn’t have been holding him down. He must have deserved to be arrested. He must not have been a good man.” These are the same people who say things like, “Blue lives matter. All lives matter. Those police officers go out everyday and risk their lives for the American people, how can they be bad?” I, for one, don’t believe that every day in a cop’s life is life threatening anyway. It certainly wasn’t that night. But every day in the life of a person of color could be life altering, if not life threatening, just because they have a darker skin tone. What’s so great about white anyway? Easy sunburns?
But I digress. Because all of this has also been said before.
George Floyd grew up in the Fifth Ward. He was an excellent basketball player. He went on the play basketball in college, but didn’t finish. He had some problems in life and was arrested quite a few times having to do with drugs and theft. In 2007 he was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery with a weapon. He was paroled in 2013.
There are people who only want to focus on this part of this life. They want to say, “See, look. He was not an innocent man.” To them I would like to say the same thing Jesus said to the Pharisees who tried to stone a woman accused of adultery, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”
Because we have all done things we aren’t proud of.
When George Floyd got out of prison he was a changed man. He became a Christian. He became a mentor to young men in his hometown. He did his best to live his life right.
Eventually, George moved to Minneapolis for a fresh start. He wanted to be a better father. He went to church. He worked as a security guard for a homeless shelter. He became a bouncer at a club and was learning to be a truck driver. And he too lost his job due to the pandemic.
For a start on where to find more information about this normal, good man, try this article from the Chicago Tribune: https://www.chicagotribune.com/nation-world/ct-nw-life-of-george-floyd-biography-20200611-cxmlynpyvjczpbe6izfduzwv54-story.html
or listen to this episode of The Daily, a New York Times podcast: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/podcasts/the-daily/george-floyd-protests-funeral.html?action=click&module=audio-series-bar®ion=header&pgtype=Article
But a news article and a podcast aren’t going to sum up all of a man’s life. We will never know everything about George Floyd. But that’s not the point.
He was a good man who had some slip ups in life, like we all do. His shortcomings do not make up every aspect of who he was.
How would you like it if people only focused on your shortcomings, especially if you had turned your life around and were really trying to do better?
Let me tell you about another man who turned his life around. Paul, who wrote all those letters in the Bible, was a pharisee. Pharisees believed they were better than everyone else because they followed the Jewish law perfectly. They rebuked those who they believed were not following God properly. They stoned people without evidence. Sound familiar? He sounds like a white evangelical. Paul had permission to round up and murder Christians. And he did. Because they were not following the Jewish law the way he believed they should, so they must be doing something wrong.
But then Paul lost his sight. And Jesus spoke to him. And he realized he was doing wrong and he turned his life around. He became a leader in the Christian world. He wrote most of the New Testament. Most Christians care more about what Paul said than about what Jesus said, even though he’s who they claim to serve. Christians love Paul. They don’t hold his past against him, because they believe him to be good.
So why do people try to hold George Floyd’s past against him? Because they don’t want to admit that there is corruption in the police force. And probably because he was black.
Here’s some news. Paul wasn’t white. Neither was Jesus.
So to those of you who want to focus on the fact that George Floyd had a drug problem, to those of you who want to focus on the fact that he spent some time in prison, I say this, “Whoever is without sin should cast the first stone.” Whoever has a perfect past, they can drag us all through the mud. But there isn’t anyone. We all screw up. And we can all be better.