Marking the anniversary of the death of a loved one invites heartbreak no matter how the person died. When the death was violent and took place in the public eye, so many emotions come into play.
The family of George Floyd gathered in Minneapolis over the weekend and were expected to meet with President Biden in the White House Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of his death at the hands of former police officer Derek Chauvin.
In a rare example of swift justice, Chauvin has since been tried and convicted of second-degree unintentional murder; third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He is in prison awaiting sentencing; a 40-year term is possible.
I hope the fact that justice prevailed this time is of some comfort to the Floyd family, though I know it can never erase the pain and memory of what happened. I hope it can help in the healing of our nation as well.
I pray that the marches planned for Tuesday in many cities remain peaceful and prayerful as a sign of respect to the family and to our nation. Rioting never serves a purpose. For unrest to mar this anniversary now would speak to a separate agenda.
After George was killed last year I reached out to his family to say I had some idea of their pain. I know it’s terrible to lose a family member to violence, to have to grieve publicly.
I was 17 years old when I got my first lesson on that when my uncle, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to death.
The next year my father was strangled, beaten and thrown into a pool. The medical examiner found no water in his lungs, so that was not suicide or accidental drowning. That was murder.
I was 23 when my grandmother, Alberta Williams King, was shot as she played organ during Sunday morning services at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
My family and I were like the members of the Floyd family – bewildered, broken-hearted and expected to inspire a nation as we blazed a path forward.
I commended George’s brother Terrence last year for calling on protesters to resist violence. It’s what my grandfather, Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., did after both of his sons and his wife were killed. It’s what my father did when our house was firebombed, with all of us inside.
Hate fueled all of these acts of violence, including the murder of George Floyd. What we need to do now as a nation is put aside hate and find a different way to proceed. There will always be injustice because we are all human, we are all sinners.
But what we are not is different races. We are different colors and as a result, we have experienced different realities.
A Black teen growing up in an inner city has little in common with a White teen in a wealthy enclave. The reality of a Black baby in the womb also can be very different from that of a White baby, with the Black baby several times more likely to die by abortion before ever having a birth day. But even that doesn’t change the fact that we are one race, one blood. There can only be one critical race theory and that is for the one human race.
This firm belief in Acts 17:26 – God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth – is what prompted entrepreneur Ginger Howard and I to reach out to each other across this socially constructed racial divide to write “We’re Not Colorblind.”
It’s a message I share whenever I am given a platform. I’m happy to have a chance to do it Tuesday, when our screens will likely be filled once again with the video of George Floyd’s last moments, a video that became unforgettable to me and the rest of the nation with just one viewing.
We are segregated in our nation, sometimes by circumstance, sometimes by choice. It’s my prayer that Tuesday we all take a moment to reach out to someone we otherwise might have overlooked or shunned and say simply, “God bless you. Peace.”