On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down in the street, begging for his life and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”. A second and third officer further restrained Floyd while a fourth prevented bystanders from intervening. During the final three minutes Floyd was motionless and had no pulse while Chauvin ignored onlookers’ pleas to remove his knee, which he did not do until medics told him to.
Our American history is all too full of stories of black men and women wrongfully dying at the hands of police. Someone else dies, there is outrage for a few days, and then life goes on. Business as usual. But not this time….
George Floyd’s death touched us; moved us; and activated our collective conscience to a degree I have never before seen in America. I have never seen so many white people admit that we are a racist nation. I have never seen so many white people march and protest for the rights of people that have different skin tones than them. I have never seen institutions make the kind of sweeping change they are making now. In his death, George Floyd is a champion for change perhaps unlike any we have ever before seen.
George Floyd’s death touched us; moved us; and activated our collective conscience to a degree I have never before seen in America.
My pastor, Miles McPherson, has been a leading scholar and teacher on the topic of race relations in our country. He wrote a book entitled, “The Third Option.” I was recently “attending” church remotely and he was discussing race. He challenged each of us, particularly if we were white, to speak out on race. I do what my pastor tells me to do and I feel like I have certain obligations as a justice leader, and so I made a video. I posted it on social media and otherwise sent it to everyone I know.
I delivered my message taking a knee. I did so to honor and support the heroic and peaceful protests of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in support of his brothers and sisters. I briefly summarize that message here.
My law firm condemns the brutal, illegal and inhumane murder of George Floyd, as well as any racist conduct, statement or institution that may exist.
First, I wanted to state the obvious. We live in a racist country in a racist world. It’s baffling to me how many white Americans cannot speak that truth. And it’s a truth which is both demonstrable and undeniable. Nonetheless, I felt like others needed to hear those words coming out of my mouth.
Second, my law firm condemns the brutal, illegal and inhumane murder of George Floyd, as well as any racist conduct, statement or institution that may exist. We will not stand idly by or remain silent ever in the face of injustice. I wanted to make that clear as well.
Third, we support lawful and peaceful protests of any kind. I specifically mentioned Colin here. To me, it is manifestly clear that a racist league and collection of owners black-balled him and ruined his career because he chose to respectfully protest the death of black people at the hands of police. Even the President of the United States called him a “son of a bitch.” Not us. To us, he is and always will be a hero. I was happy to hear the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, admit that the NFL “got it wrong” by not listening more to players about race. I wish he would have apologized to Colin by name. I hope he does some time soon. He should.
Fourth, we support and applaud leaders and police that do the right thing. My brother is a cop. My step-dad is a retired cop. I was a prosecutor. And lots and lots of the community work I do is shoulder to shoulder with the outstanding men and women of law enforcement. So I know first-hand that the overwhelming majority of men and women that choose to work in law enforcement do so for the right reasons and do their jobs well. They say that nobody hates a bad cop more than a good cop. And good cops are the ones with the real power to change all this. We just need to ensure they have the tools, structure and community support and protection to enable them to do so.
America has broken its promise of “life, liberty and justice for all.” Let’s help make that promise a reality.
Finally, I say, we all need to work on ourselves. As Pastor Miles teaches, we all have a bit of a “them and us” mentality in us. Jesus being the exception, we all sin. And I bet if we were searchingly honest, we would have to admit we are all racist in some way, shape or form. We all have some pre-defined ideas about how people different from us are. And that is something we can never and should never stop working on.
Watch the video if you have the time. And film something or write something yourself. Now is the time we all need to speak out. For George. And for all of us, our children and their children too. America has broken its promise of “life, liberty and justice for all.” Let’s help make that promise a reality. It starts now and with each of us. I hope you will join me in that fight.