Yesterday, like millions around the world I was glued to my television to watch the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. The video of former Officer Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd's neck went viral last year. It was viewed millions of times. The killing of George Floyd and other such cases sparked protests, both peaceful and destructive, around the world. Yesterday, a jury found Chauvin guilty of 2nd and 3rd degree murder and 2nd degree manslaughter. In 8 weeks time, Chauvin will be sentenced and could face 40 years in jail.
The story of Floyd and Chauvin revealed that there is a great divide in our world. Members of racial minorities have expressed the concern that they have faced mistreatment by society as a whole and in the ways they have been treated by the police. White supremacists were somewhat emboldened by the actions of the now convicted police officer. The police talked about how difficult their job is and how the actions of a minority of officers, like Derek Chauvin, are making their jobs more difficult. Some societal groups talked about how we should take away some of the funds from the police and give it to social workers, addiction counsellors, and social justice groups.
The conviction of Derek Chauvin does close a small chapter in this story of unrest. Although it will never bring back George Floyd, it does bring some sense of closure to the Floyd family. It does give notice that unnecessary violent actions by a minority of police officers will not be tolerated all of the time. Yesterday's decision showed that all people's lives matter, even those who commit crimes like passing bad checks and even those who might not have lived perfect lives.
However, many questions remain to be answered. How do we recognize that there is a problem with racism in our world? How do we recognize that there is a problem with the way we react to the others in the world? Why is it that all of us, in one way or another, judge others because of things like race, sexual orientation, economic status, education, religious background, where they or there ancestors were born, gender, abilities? Even if we don't think we have pre-conceived ideas about others, I think all of us would have certain pre-conceived ideas about someone if I said they were a member of Hell's Angel's, or a doctor, or the Ku Klux Klan, or a lawyer, or a police officer, or a Black Lives Activist, or a Hutterite. Do I treat someone who has a PhD different than someone who has only a grade school education? I think all of us. if we think about it deeply, realize we don't treat everyone quite the same.
All of us need to look beyond the superficial to understand each other more fully. To describe me as a minister is only part of who I am. To describe me as a middle aged man (hurts deeply no matter how true) again is just part of my story. To describe me as Canadian is partly true, but there are 37 million different ways to be a Canadian. Deep down, I am much more complex and a sum of many different factors. I am more than just a Saskatchewan Roughrider fan.
Too often people oversimplify who other people are- they use stereotypes rather than learn the complexity of other people. I am a United Church minister, therefore some people use stereotypes of what they think a United Church minister is to pigeon hole me in their mind. Or if they find out I belong to one political party they get an idea in their mind. Again what I do for a living and who I support politically are part of who I am. They do not describe me.
Now I cannot be sure, but it would seem that Officer Chauvin was guilty of using such stereotypes in his interactions with George Floyd. One it seems obvious that he believed that if one is doing the work of defending law and order, then one was always right. Even though many people told him he was killing Mr. Floyd, he refused to remove his knee from his neck. Two, he was convinced that those who had done wrong lost all rights. Mr. Floyd had passed a bad check. He was in a rough neighbourhood. He seemed to be on something. He was black. He wasn't co-operative. Therefore, it seemed in Officer Chauvin's mind that Mr. Floyd deserved to be ill treated and had no rights. Derek Chauvin in that moment neglected the fact that George Floyd was more than just a presumed felon. I am sure Mr. Floyd had touched the lives of many in his life. He was someone's friend and confidante. He was someone's child and a father of five. He was more than just a black man. He was more than what officer Chauvin could no about in the several moments that they interacted with one another. Had Officer Chauvin seen George Floyd as more than just a presumed felon, Floyd would have been alive today. Blessings.