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The Disturbing Death of George Floyd and Civil Unrest: A Spiritual Perspective

Updated: Apr 23

Few people on the planet had heard about George Floyd until he was killed - arguably murdered - after a policer officer knelt on his neck during an arrest. The video that documented the killing was so disturbing that YouTube posted a warning to potential viewers to watch it at their discretion. What took place was so shocking that a witness called the police on the police.

I've seen some horrific things in my day, but George Floyd's death was particularly disturbing. It upset my soul. It devastated and sparked such anger within the community that some residents of Minneapolis, Minnesota rose in civil unrest that included attacks on police cars, burning buildings, and attacks on the police station. At the time of this writing, the outrage spilled over into Los Angeles, Louisville, and Baltimore, where further civil unrest took place. A feeling, not only of outrage but of hopelessness, gripped people from all stations of life. One resident felt as if there was a knee on the neck of his community.

Incidents such as this are not new. Nevertheless, it was shocking to see what happened to Mr. Floyd. When my son said that there seemed like there was no hope to solve the race problem in America since, after all, there have been protests, laws passed, and marches for years, and nothing seems to have changed. I sense he believed nothing was going to change. I felt his frustration, and wondered, “What is the solution?” The answer, to the extent there is one, has many levels of complexity. Entire dissertations on the subject, written or yet to be written, have been, and are likely to be, insufficient. The rational part of my mind says there is no way to come up with a solution in a short blog such as this. But we can look at this matter through a spiritual lens. It is not an answer per se, but it is a start.

As I reflected on this matter, the book by Franz Fanon, "The Wretched of the Earth," popped up in my consciousness. I read Fanon's work many years ago when I was in high school. It was during my "I wanna be a revolutionary" days. It is not a spiritual book, but it did trigger a spiritual way of looking at what is going on with the George Floyd killing and the civil unrest that followed the public viewing of the video. Mr. Fanon, a psychiatrist, analyzed the postwar decolonization in Algeria. Dr. Fanon posits that the oppressive violence of colonial rule sowed the seeds of a similar reaction from the recipients of the oppression. It took this counter-reaction to restore the balance and to give the people back their humanity, so that their liberation could benefit all.

The key takeaway for me is that, as messy as it looks at any given moment, it is part of humanity's evolutionary process. Here is where a spiritual, or at least a different perspective comes in. The nature of the universe is growth and movement. However, this growth is hardly ever a smooth, linear, or a continuous process. It's akin to the progression of ideas or the evolution of life. It’s described as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The first idea or way of being (thesis) is followed by a conflict between the first and second ideas or ways of being (antithesis). A third idea follows the conflict, and hopefully, so does a higher order of life or way of being (synthesis).

The protests that followed the widespread, gut-wrenching viewing of the killing of George Floyd reveal America at a boiling point. We are at a critical antithesis phase in our journey as human and spiritual beings. The choices we make will determine whether the next phase of our evolution reflects our better angels or the shadow side of humanity. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “…[positive] change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability." It is not destined that everyone will be treated with dignity and respect regardless of race. As always, it's up to everyone one of us to be the change we want to see.

Peace and Blessings,


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