George Floyd’s tragic death under the knee of ex-cop Derek Chauvin may yet prove to be a rare unifying moment for America, when an injustice leads to real, positive change. That’s why false narratives and radical agendas must be rejected.
On Thursday, a memorial service for Floyd was held in Minneapolis, the same city where 10 days earlier he died after suffering for nine minutes under the unrelenting weight of Chauvin, who now faces murder charges. Floyd was just 46 years old.
Leading the service was activist Al Sharpton, who declared “a different time and a different season” had arrived after Floyd’s death. He cited protests worldwide and the diverse racial makeup of the protesters, but he did not wait long to unleash his habitual racial invective.
“George Floyd's story has been the story of black folks because the reason we could never be what we wanted is because you kept your knee on our neck,” Sharpton said of America, repeating the “your knee on our neck” line three more times for effect.
That isn’t George Floyd’s story though.
Floyd was loved by friends and family who said beautiful things about him at the memorial Thursday. May he rest in peace. May his family win the justice he and they all deserve.
But was Floyd held down in life by the knee of America? No, he wasn’t. Was his extensive criminal record a result of his skin color? No, it wasn’t.
What’s at stake for Sharpton that he would twist things like that? What does it have to do with pursuing justice for Floyd? All it does actually is invite more scrutiny of Floyd’s life, exposed most coldly and openly in criminal conviction records.
No one deserves to die the way Floyd did, and pending a trial, it certainly appears Chauvin is guilty of murder or at least manslaughter. The trial may or may not reveal any racist motivation of Chauvin and his fellow officers who are also facing charges. So far, there is no evidence of racism at play in Floyd’s death, unless someone’s race is in and of itself evidence of racism.
If there’s unity in America today, it’s that no police officer should ever be allowed to get away with what happened to Floyd. However, there is an idolization of Floyd that’s happening in tandem with a racially charged movement.
One example of this exaltation is captured in an Associated Press story comparing Floyd to Crispus Attucks, who is widely believed to be the first man killed in the 1770 Boston Massacre that kicked off the American Revolution.
The AP interviewed Boston playwright Miranda Adekoje, who’s writing a new play about Attucks, who was half-black, half-Native American.
“The revolution that began with Crispus Attucks’ murder had no real regard for the lives of African and indigenous people,” she said. “The revolution that has begun as a result of George Floyd’s murder is for the sole purpose of making America inhabitable for all people.”
There are legitimate protests, and real reforms are being pushed, such as Congress ending legal immunity for police. But some would rather risk losing reforms in pursuit of a revolution based around a man like Floyd?
At a rally in Minneapolis, Floyd’s friend, ex-NBA player Stephen Jackson, spoke about Floyd’s life “turning in the right direction” before his death. Understandably, he didn’t get into Floyd’s rap sheet, but considering Floyd was high on fentanyl and methamphetamine at the time of his death, some public voices have questioned how much of a turnaround was really happening.
Conservative commentator Candace Owens was trending on Twitter early Thursday after she listed Floyd’s crime history in a video. There was the theft with a firearm in 1998, three cocaine convictions from 2002 to 2005 and finally a 5-year prison sentence in 2009 for an armed robbery where he pointed a gun at a pregnant woman’s stomach.
Owens continued, expressing frustration with African-Americans downplaying criminality in their communities, even elevating criminals to high status. She also condemned the leap to racism and blaming white people for problems black Americans face.
Jackson, Floyd’s old friend, had also asked rally-goers to “imagine if he was white,” referring to Floyd.
It doesn’t take much of an imagination, because a white man was killed by Tampa Bay police in 2016 in a very similar fashion to what happened to Floyd. Obviously, Jackson had never heard of the case of Tony Timpa.
“The whole concept of racialized police brutality is a myth,” Owens said in her viral video Thursday. “All you have to do is sit down and do basic mathematics to discover that the entire narrative that we have been sold is a lie.”
She cited statistics that whites who commit violent crimes are 25 percent more likely to be killed by police than blacks who commit violent crimes, even though blacks, despite making up just 13 percent of the population, commit over 40 percent of the murders and roughly half of all violent crime.
Last year, 10 unarmed black people were killed by police, compared to 19 unarmed white people. For more on the 10 cases of police killing unarmed blacks, Tucker Carlson did a fantastic job summarizing those cases on his Fox News show this week.
The point is that Floyd’s life and death both mattered, and they mattered much more than any false narrative or political agenda. No matter how well-intentioned, attempts to hide or embellish parts of the truth in order to achieve a preconceived outcome is not justice, but injustice.
Just like people and property must take up extra protection during the ongoing riots, we must also guard the truth. Without it, there will never be justice for George Floyd or the American people.