Last night at 8:01 my granddaughter texted me this.
“Yessssss Derek Chauvin the cop who killed George Floyd has been found guilty…” She is 13 years old. She went on to say that she hopes it brings to light all of the other cases of injustice and helps to change things.
She is 13 going on 31 but I am so proud that she is interested in social reform. As her grandmother, I so appreciate that she thinks for herself, even at this young age, and has developed a strong opinion. Believe me, she can make a powerful argument, holding her own as we often debate point counterpoint style on many such current affairs topics.
But I also want her to be a compassionate person. As they handcuffed Derek Chauvin and led him away, I suddenly felt an unexpected wave of pity for him. He looked rather small and indeed helpless, not the defiant officer kneeling on Floyd with his chest puffed out as bystanders pleaded with him to stop. I wondered if he felt any regret now that the tables were turned. I wondered if perhaps it flashed through his mind how George Floyd may have felt. I thought of Derek Chauvin’s family and how both his and George Floyd’s family have now suffered irreplaceable loss. Will Chauvin’s safety be in jeopardy while in custody just as Floyd’s was?
I’m not sure this was justice. If justice is the principle that people get what they deserve, then ok, maybe it was, or maybe it is more about vengeance, one life sacrificed for the lost life of another. But if there is also with it an element of fairness, it is not justice in my opinion. It is more about holding a person accountable for his deed. How can it ever be fair when one person is dead? I want my granddaughter to ponder these deep ethical questions as she grows up. I want her to go far beyond the surface and ask the tough questions because I think that will shape her into a person of high moral character, a person of integrity, possibly a person who will change her world.
There is yet another aspect to justice. It involves making things right. In this fight for racial justice achieving fairness and equality have been the long haul tragically painful part. I believe it is my job as a grandparent to teach my grandchildren to always try to make things fair and right. As Christians we do indeed need to stand up to injustice and this includes not remaining silent. Even if you feel no real impact by the verdict, if you have no thoughts on the issue, that alone matters especially to future generations. It matters profoundly! It matters because silence has played a huge role in racism over the years. James 4:7 That is why this verdict should matter to everyone including older adults.
The Bible teaches us that justice should be tempered with mercy or compassion and yes, even forgiveness. Matthew 5:7 tells us that we WILL be blessed if we show mercy. Or check out King Solomon’s prayer in Psalm 72: 1-5 where he is asking God to give him a love of justice. Finally and most importantly, Matthew 18:33 reminds us that we were also forgiven…and in that forgiveness we were given our freedom!
Celebrating the verdict seems extreme and premature to me …but I am not a black person. I have not endured years and years of oppression and injustice because my skin is dark. But my youngest son is and we have had the “respect the police talks” if you are ever stopped. I can never pretend that I know what it is like to walk in his shoes or in the shoes of any black person. Yet the verdict for me was more of a relief, relief that FINALLY the system got it right. Let’s celebrate when we see laws change. And in the meantime let’s keep raising children and grandchildren who boldly fight injustice wherever whenever they see it.