George Floyd, Racial Justice, and the Spirit of the Law

May 26, 2021

2 Corinthians 3:6
“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

As we mark the anniversary of the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of now tried and convicted police officer Derek Chauvin, we are reminded by the recent wave of police-related shooting deaths that America still has two systems of justice.

A system for BIPOCs in which the slightest of infractions of the letter of the law triggers guilt and prescribes punishments—including death sentences at the hands of  police officers—and a system for whites who are granted grace because the spirit of the law is here to save, protect and serve them.

Since George Floyd’s death, over 181 black and brown people have died at the hands of police officers. Some during routine traffic stops and mental health checks. And this isn’t just about BIPOC adults; a child who tossed a gun and turned around with his hands in the air as ordered by an officer was immediately shot dead.

As the deaths mount, so do the calls for change by those struggling for justice, racial equity and basic compassion. Racial equity is not a call to treat BIPOC people differently under the law. It’s a demand to treat unarmed black and brown people with at least the same humane spirit that Kyle Rittenhouse, Dylan Roof and host of other white shooters who are still alive are treated.

The district attorney in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, Jerry Blackwell, reminded America that if George Floyd, and the many BIPOC people accused of crimes, were treated with a little grace—not just the strict letter of the law—many lives would have been saved.

Blackwell added that some witnesses in the trial said Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big. “Now, having seen all the evidence, having heard all the evidence, you know the truth,” Blackwell said. “The truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.

Church World Service believes that Congress can demonstrate America’s compassionate heart and the spirit of true justice by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Racial equity requires equal protection under the law and is a right of every American.

—Revered Reuben Eckels is Domestic Policy Advocate at Church World Service