The Killing of George Floyd

The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on Monday was unjustifiable. It was extremely disturbing. It was heartbreaking to watch. It really looks like murder.

It defies any explanation I can think of to believe that it was in any way necessary for the police officer to drive his knee with the full weight of his body behind it into the neck of a man lying face down on the pavement with his hands cuffed behind his back, much less for as long a he did. The police officer who chocked the life out of Mr. Floyd should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The other officers who stood by and knowingly allowed it to go on for so long should be prosecuted as well. It is incredible that they were not immediately arrested when the video evidence came out.georgefloyd

What happened to Mr. Floyd was wrong. By all appearances it was a cold and callous crime on the part of the officers involved, especially the one directly involved. Racism is also wrong. It is evil. But that the murder of George Floyd was racially motivated should not be assumed. It may have been; but that conclusion should be the result of a thorough investigation. And this particular case is not in itself proof that the entire Minneapolis police force is hopelessly racist, much less every police force across the country or the country as a whole itself. But with cases like this some have predetermined conclusions that racism is the main cause regardless of the facts or the lack thereof.

Our country has a horrible history of racism. And although we have made great strides to correct some of the systemic racial injustices of the past, racism still lurks in the hearts and minds of some people today to one degree or another. But the sins of generations past should not be used to predetermine the motives for crimes of whites against blacks in the present regardless of facts and evidence. I just cannot lend support to these kinds of predetermined narratives.

What I can do is condemn racism in general because it is contrary to the gospel of God who created all of us in his image and likeness and who redeemed all of us in Christ to be a part of his multi ethnic, multi-colored family. It is a sin against our common humanity and dignity as human beings. I can also condemn racism when facts reveal that to be a motive for crimes in particular cases. I will not assume racism, however, every time a white person commits a crime against a black person any more than I will assume racism when a black person commits a crime against a white person. The fight against racism would be better served by conclusions that are proven through investigation rather than just being assumed prior to any investigation.

Despite the rhetoric to the contrary, it is not clear that white police officers are more likely to use deadly force against black suspects than black police officers. This was a finding that surprised researcher Roland Fryer Jr. in a study he reported in 2016 (see link below). Blacks are disproportionately more likely to be killed by police officers in general, but it is not clear that racism is the primary reason why. Fryer found that police officers are more likely to use non-lethal force against black suspects, but also found there was no difference when considering lethal force. He also discovered that black police officers were more likely to shoot unarmed white suspects than white police officers. The difference was statistically significant, but is not easily explained simply with reference to racial prejudice. Neither are the actions of white police officers against black suspects easily and simply explained by racism. This is not to say that racial bias plays no role, but it is not as self-evident as some want to assume.

Researchers in another recent study also found that white police officers are not more likely to use lethal force against blacks than black police officers. As reported by NPR, one of the researchers suggested that bias against black suspects may still be an issue, even for black police officers. The question is why? Is it simply because of skin color or are there other factors that play a role? The racism theory is not as self-evident as some politicians and media pundits tend to portray it. Of course, no study is the be-all-end-all. As reported in the NPR article linked above, criminologist and bias trainer, Lorie Fridell, says the case is far from settled because “we don’t have any definitive studies on this.”

It is irresponsible to assume racism as a predetermined conclusion regardless of the facts of a situation. Conclusions should be the result of investigation. It is even more irresponsible—sinister really—to use a predetermined narrative to stoke the fires of racial tension and use it to encourage and excuse violent rioting, the destruction of public and private property, random looting of businesses, and violence against innocent people. This only further damages minority communities.

The killing of George Floyd is unjustifiable, but it does not justify spreading an unsubstantiated narrative and encouraging violent riots in the streets. And the rioting in no way mitigates the killing of George Floyd. It seems that the country is unified in its condemnation of the deadly force used to choke the life out of George Floyd. It could be an opportunity to have an honest conversation. Are there enough people honestly willing to have it?




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