By Future Female Leader Cabinet Members Kellie Jensen, Emilie Nelson, Natalia Castro, Jordan Orris, Whitney Eddy, Liana Imparato, and Lucy Hutchinson

In the past eight days, the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests as Americans expressed frustration with the lack of immediate justice and, for many in the black community, a frustration with longstanding divisions between law enforcement, and their communities. While it may be easy to dismiss this case as the shiny object attracting media attention today, both conservatism and our entire country were founded on an inherent distrust of the state and it is important for us to hear and listen to those also harboring distrust. Telling George Floyd’s story and understanding how it fits into a larger narrative surrounding race in our criminal justice system is not virtue signaling, it is empathy. As our nation grapples with these topics that spark deep-rooted emotional concern, we must begin with empathy and understanding.

THE LIFE OF GEORGE FLOYD:

George Perry Floyd was 46 when his life was taken by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. He was born in North Carolina and grew up in Houston, Texas where he lived for a majority of his life, but has lived in Minnesota for the past several years. 

Growing up, Floyd was a gifted athlete and was on his high school football and basketball teams. It was through sports that he was given the nickname “gentle giant” because of his height and peaceful nature. In 1992, his football team earned a trip to the Texas state championship. He was also recruited to play basketball at South Florida State College and was a student there from 1993 – 1995. The wife of the head basketball coach at South Florida, Gloria Walker, says of Floyd, “He was never one that tried to blame others for his own mistakes. He always owned up to them and always tried to do better.” 

In 2007, Floyd, unfortunately, found himself participating in an armed robbery as part of a home invasion. He accepted a plea deal and served 5 years in prison. Upon release, in true American fashion, he was determined to make a better life for himself and find a fresh start. Moving to Minneapolis was a part of that plan, and he soon found himself employed as a truck driver and as a security guard at Conga Latin Bistro. 

George Floyd was a dedicated father, a believer in Christ, a son, brother, and boyfriend. He was a leader and mentor to young men in his community and neighborhood, as some of them referred to him as their brother, uncle, or even dad. He spoke out against gun violence among the next generation and pleaded for young men to turn away from the streets and instead turn to Jesus. His friends called him “Big Floyd.” A former teammate, Donnell Cooper, said he had a “quiet personality but a gentle spirit.” Philonise Floyd, George’s brother, described him by saying “knowing my brother is to love my brother,” and his girlfriend, Courteney Ross honored his memory by saying, “He stood up for people. He was there for people when they were down. He loved people that were thrown away.” What a remarkable and kind soul this earth has lost. As Floyd’s friend, Oscar Smallwood put it, “The gentle giant has gained his wings.”

EMOTIONAL AND PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATIONS

One week after the tragic murder of George Floyd, his brother Terrence spoke out for the first time, holding a prayer vigil at the site of his death. The peaceful gathering was shown on national networks, finding millions of Americans with a heavy heart and desire for change. 

Terrence Floyd had a powerful testimony not only about his late brother but toward the many looters and rioters who damaged and destroyed a local business. He pleaded with them, pointing out that if he could protest peacefully after the loss of a loved one, so should everyone else. “Let’s do this another way,” he said. 

He advocated for Americans to educate themselves. He said to not wait for someone else to tell you who is who, and to know who you are voting for. The powerful words tingled the spines of all of us — pointing out the importance of freethinking, education, and promoting peace. You can listen to Terrence Floyd’s speech here.

Art has also been a significant source of healing. It has the ability to bring people together and to touch the deepest depths of our souls. An artist’s every emotion is felt with each stroke of their paintbrush. 

A 20×6 foot mural depicting George Floyd was painted at the corner outside of the Cup Foods store in Minneapolis where Floyd died. Memorial art for Floyd has appeared from American coast to coast, and in Spain, Germany, and even Syria. 

PEACEFUL PROTESTING VS. LOOTING/RIOTING/DESTRUCTION/VIOLENCE

There are videos circulating social media of both peaceful protests and looting/rioting going on in major cities across the United States. The first amendment protects peaceful protests, but it does not protect criminal activity that has taken place when many of the riots have broken out. Floyd’s brother himself has asked the nation to stop rioting and turn back to peaceful protests because rioting “won’t bring his brother back.” Despite his brother’s plea, looting and riots have continued to take place. Through rioting, men and women of all races have lost their businesses, victims of crime have lost evidence, and innocent bystanders have been harmed trying to get from place to place. 

Peaceful protests are encouraged, but riots have caused stores to board up their doors, cities to impose curfews, and innocent people to lose businesses they’re worked hard to build. It’s encouraging to see people from many walks of life come together to support Black Lives Matter, but this should be done peacefully. It’s important to exercise your first amendment rights but do so without taking away the rights of others.

THE PATH TO JUSTICE 

Within the first days of public outcry over Floyd’s death, the four police officers involved in the incident were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department by their Chief of Police. Floyd’s family, and most who viewed the video of his death, have said the firings were not enough and called for the arrest of the officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, as well as the officers who failed to intervene.

A criminal complaint filed Friday charged Chauvin with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. While to many this was a strong first step toward justice, lawyers for the Floyd family have argued the facts of the case may warrant a heftier first-degree murder charge. Currently, the three surrounding officers have not been charged with any crimes, although the Floyd family lawyer has indicated charges are pending.

While it may seem that justice is being served in this case, protestors have called into question why it takes some police departments so long to hold officers accountable and why viral video evidence of police brutality is sometimes necessary for any justice to occur at all. Additionally, the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs recently relieved that Chauvin has 18 complaints against him for conduct while in uniform. This has begged the question from activists how an officer with such as a history of wrongdoing has been allowed to continue serving on the public’s dime in an authority position.

Protestors, activists, and public figures from across the political spectrum have expressed concern that the murder of George Floyd sheds light on a systemic problem of racial division within our criminal justice system.

Organizations such as the Black Lives Matter movement have called for more substantial reforms to our policing system to combat this systemic problem and prevent tragedies like Floyd’s murder from occurring again. Black Lives Matter offers suggestions for change including a greater “acknowledgment and accountability for the devaluation and dehumanization of Black life at the hands of the police,” combatting cultures of corruption within police departments, and defunding individual police departments in favor of additional investment in community resources.

While the path to justice may have seemed four officers deep a week ago, today we see a much longer road ahead. It will likely be a difficult road, but the promise of Liberty and Justice for all is too important to the American ideal to not be worth these hard conversations.

CLOSING THOUGHTS 

We leave you with a few closing thoughts. Though we know not all hold the Christian perspective, the current state in our country begs for Biblical truth. We hope this provides comfort and hope.

The murder of George Floyd–and the larger racial issues at play–is a grave injustice, and it grieves us. The national and global outcry is evidence enough.

But there is a reason we are grieved and crave justice. This act and the insidious evil of racism are not just offenses against man, but against the Creator of man, the Author of justice, and the One who instilled within us a knowledge of these truths. Again, the national and global outcry is evidence enough of this.

But this one standard of justice, as determined by God and realized by man, is continuously and systematically tarred by humans. And while we humans are always the offenders, we also feel and know the weight of the offense.

So, how should we respond? When we’re shaken by a perversion of justice from those around us when evil seems so overwhelmingly real, what do we do?

We must strive for justice and change (Micah 6:8). The offenders must be held accountable, and we need to do better. But we also know that, as much as we can pursue these things, evil will never be eradicated. There will always be wickedness–in the forms of racism, brutality, thievery, and many more.

But there is One who is wholly good in the face of human evil, One who provides eternal justice in the face of perpetual injustice. God in Jesus Christ has dealt with the problem of corrosive evil, dying to atone for the sins of all mankind. In this act, He took the weight of all sin upon Himself and paid its price in full. Now we, the irreparably unjust, can be reconciled to Him who authored justice.

And He promises to us that His justice will prevail one day when He puts an end to evil once and for all. Until that day, “the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together” (Rom. 8:22). We will long for unshakeable, everlasting justice until it is one day realized, but we cling to the promise that it is coming.

There may very well be earthly justice for George Floyd–and there should be. But there will also be a final reckoning, an answering to the Creator of man and designer of justice. And there should be.

In the meantime, on this side of heaven, we find the potential for change rooted in these two actions: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’…[and] ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”