This past weekend was a chaotic one in the United States. Cities have been set on fire from coast to coast. From the posh shopping districts of Los Angeles to Union Square in New York City, and from the Rocky Mountain town of Denver to the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the unjust death of George Floyd has set off a chain of violent protests and uprisings.
Early last week in Minneapolis, a black man was murdered by a white police officer. The officer pinned down 46-year old George Floyd, kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. For over two-and-a-half of those minutes, Floyd lay there unconscious. Unlike other controversial police killings, there is no missing context of events. This was a clear-cut case of police brutality and murder, pure and simple. This should never happen in the United States of America.
I know of no one, conservative or liberal, who think that the killing of George Floyd was acceptable or justified, and that’s because it wasn’t. Americans are actually more united on this point then we have been on any issue in a long time. That is why it is a shame that these rioters are distracting from what should be a moment of national unity. This is an opportunity for Americans to come together for once, but a few hooligans are using the opportunity to selfishly pillage and burn our cities to the ground.
In Minneapolis, a black firefighter had his dream business destroyed by the rioters. Korboi Balla watched helplessly as looters attacked and vandalized his sports bar that he had invested his life savings into.
He fought back tears as he said: “It hurts, man. It’s not fair. It’s not right. We’ve been working so hard for this place. It’s not just for me, it’s for my family.”
At the very moment he was being interviewed by CBS News, looters broke into the back door of his establishment and tried to steal his safe.
In Chicago, two police officers were attempting to arrest a rioter. The officers were outnumbered and surrounded on all sides by an angry mob, who hit and dragged the officers. One officer, a female, was dragged about 10 feet through the street, being struck violently the whole time.
A third officer valiantly ran to their rescue to protect his brother and sister in blue. The mob attacked him as well, throwing projectiles and fluids in an attempt to punish him for trying to save his fellow officers from their deadly grip.
On Sunday night, in Lafayette Park in front of the White House, 60 secret service agents were injured as they defended the presidential residence. The parish office of the historic St. John’s Church was set ablaze, as well as a utility building across the street. On the street, officers formed a wall to keep the violent mobs from breaching the fence surrounding the Executive Mansion. It was a surreal sight to see so much carnage outside the “people’s house.” It was so dangerous on Friday night that the Secret Service moved President Trump and the First Family into a bunker below the White House as a precautionary measure.
In Atlanta, nights of rioting and looting prompted Mayor Keisha Buttoms to address the violence being wrought on her city. She delivered a powerful message, saying, “This not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos. A protest has a purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city.
“You are not honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. You’re not protesting anything running out with brown liquor in your hands, breaking windows in this city. When you burn down this city, you are burning down our community.”
You are disgracing our city. You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country. “We are better than this. We are better than this as a city, and we are better than this as a country.”
The mayor is right. It was Dr. King who once said: ‘Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Although we are no doubt living in divisive times in this country, we shouldn’t be devoid of historical perspective. After all, this is a country where slavery was once the law of the land. However, this is also the country that fought a civil war to end it, and then had a civil rights movement to once and for all put an end to legalized segregation.
We have come a long way on race relations in this country, although we can see that the job hasn’t been completed. I have always said that, if you can show me an incidence of racism, I will join with you to fight it, peacefully, and using the platform I have been given to the best of my ability.
The murder of George Floyd is clearly such an instance.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that Americans of all races are freer than we have ever been in our nation’s history. There is more opportunity available to more people of all races and genders and nationalities then there has ever been here before. I pray that we do forget this and continue to honor the memory of those who fought for the flag to make this a “more perfect union.”
On a personal note, it broke my heart to watch from afar as my home city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was burned. Police cars were destroyed and businesses were robbed and left in tatters.
But come the next morning, only a few hours after the protests, I was not surprised to see hundreds, maybe even thousands of Grand Rapids citizens taking to the streets to clean up the damage from the night before. They didn’t make the mess, but they still cleaned it up, and in doing so sent a powerful message to the nation. A relatively small band of thugs doesn’t represent the community of West Michigan.
I take solace in knowing that the angry mobs across the nation aren’t representative of our country either. These rioters represent an infinitesimal fraction of the population of this country. Please don’t be conned into thinking that they represent people protesting for equality any more than Derek Chauvin represents the nation’s police officers. Neither one is a good example. Good Americans go into the streets to clean up the shards of glass. They do not break the glass themselves.
And finally, on the subject of racism: I say to all racists out there, particularly those who claim to be Christian, to remember that the Bible says that “God created humankind in His image.”
By hating people of a different skin color, you are spitting in the eye of God. You are distorting the message of Christ, and YOU are the ones straying from His message. That’s just as much of a problem as the people rioting and looting.
America has faced challenges that outweigh the current moment of discontent. We have always come out on the other side of the tunnel and into the light. We can once again bathe in the light of righteousness by doing what we have always done: lifting “up the better angels of our nature.”