In light of the continued events and unrest this last weekend (especially here in Atlanta), I felt the need to do something that one of my Seminary Professors taught me to do long ago. His name is Bishop Woody White. I am just one of thousands of people his life has impacted particularly in the conversation about racial justice. It has been Bishop White’s personal tradition each year to write a posthumous letter to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That letter usually celebrates the progress and/or laments the lack of progress over the last year regarding racial justice. Because of Bishop White, I felt led to write a personal posthumous letter to George Floyd today.
Here is what I wrote to George:
“George, a part of all of us dies with you every time we watch as you are denied your God-given breath. Every time we see those horrific images, we grieve. We grieve for you and we grieve the profound brokenness of our world. George, your life should not have ended on earth that day in that way. It was wrong.
We grieve with your family first and foremost. George, we grieve with your precious little daughter. We grieve with your friends. We are asking God in our prayers to hold your family and friends lovingly in God’s embrace. George, your family and friends have shared your story with the world in dignity and grace so that a LIGHT may be shined upon this injustice. We are so sorry for their public and private pain. George, I’m so sorry we all let you down.
Your struggle that day in the streets of Minneapolis has now become the shared struggle of a global community who simply will not let this act of injustice go quietly into the night. It has brought together people of many races – not just black people George – but white people and other races too into a groundswell crying out for institutional reform. George, your voice is still echoing loudly around the entire globe. I am truly hopeful real change has begun.
George, there is something else that I personally need to tell you. I wasn’t there for you when I should have been. I don’t mean in Minneapolis. I mean all those other times I witnessed racially inappropriate behaviors – and I did nothing throughout my life. George, I have personally let you down. If things are going to really change I have to really see and admit to that part of me that still makes room for unintentional and intentional prejudices in me and in others that cannot be allowed in our world. We have to change on the inside before we can change on the outside. I too must admit I am complicit in a culture, in a system, in a society that led to your injustice and the reprehensible injustice of many before you – and those who follow you.
George, you have begun change in me (and I suspect in millions like me.) I am grateful to you for that but I just wish it did not cost you your life and cause your family and friends so much pain. Maybe if we all agree to carry a portion of that pain together so that it does not fall onto just one family, just one community, just one race alone, then maybe, just maybe, the shared pain in our world will turn into something else. Maybe our shared pain, the pain we all carry from your unjust death and the unjust deaths of others, can bring about transformational good into this broken world. George, I believe it can. I believe it will because I am a person of faith.
Rest in Peace George. Let us carry the responsibility for getting it right now – beginning first with ourselves. From that place of inward change, we can turn outward to be the continuing waves of change that are required to get this right. My prayer is those waves of change somehow redeem – as only God can do – the horrible injustice you suffered in death. God’s eternal life be yours, George.
George, I am committing to educating myself on things I know I don’t know. I will encourage others like me to do the same. Through intentional movies, books, and, curriculums I am immersing myself with information that will minimize the blind spots within my personal world view. George, I am starting with me and the relationships I have. May God gracefully guide me in my understanding that through me, God may change the world. George, a part of you lives in me now. I will not let that part die.
That’s what I would say in my letter to George.
What would you say in yours?