PASTOR’S CORNER: George Floyd Was No Willing Martyr

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I have never been one to join “causes,” but I have watched with interest and sorrow at the recent news reports of the George Floyd killing by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the worldwide reactions that have occurred in response.

One reaction in particular has angered me. Age and infirmity prevent my hitting the streets in protest, but I can at least speak out.

Through social media, I have discovered that there are those — in the Black community — who have accused the Black Lives Matter movement of elevating Floyd to “martyr” status, a position they do not support. One, (who shall remain nameless), has said that this effort “sickens me.”

To my knowledge, no one in Black Lives Matter has ever publicly referred to Floyd as a martyr, so the accusation is baseless on its face. Additionally, this sickness could have been avoided with one quick look in a dictionary where this poor, sick soul would have found out that a martyr is one who willingly suffers great pain or death for a chosen cause.

This definition of martyr in no way describes the death of Floyd. He did not willingly give up his life, It was snatched from him by the knee of his assailant. Nor was he involved in any cause or protest movement at the time of his death. But, one truth can be stated about Floyd: he was certainly a catalyst for the protests that followed and continue today.

So, why was such a baseless accusation made? The reason I heard given was this: in their view, he does not deserve martyr status (even if it were given) because of his lifelong career of criminal activity. My question is: so what? The fact that he has a rap sheet has no bearing on his death at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve.

The issue is not his past, but rather it is the manner of his death, and the hardened hearts of those who killed him and the numerous other Black people who have suffered similar ends over the years in this nation. Well, the deed is done, but the question is how do we ensure that these unjust killings of Black people come to a screeching halt in this country?

The answer can be summarized in one word – vote. News reports today are replete with cries for police reform and other legislative changes to level the playing field for all Black people. This is all good, but if we don’t do our part, it will never happen. New or changed legislation requires new legislators. The current crop of legislators won’t do it so get out and vote.

Lest we forget, there is another side to this coin. The Almighty God has a role to play, and if we’re paying attention, we can see that he’s on his job. He tells us all in the book of Isaiah that “beside me there is no savior” (verse 11). And then he tells us that “I will do a new thing; now it shall bring forth; shall ye not know it?” (verse 19).

I believe this new thing, never seen before, is currently underway; a thing that the entire world is experiencing — the coronavirus pandemic and the global Black Lives Matter movement.

I’m not convinced God caused this pandemic, but he certainly has allowed it to happen and to persist. He’s using it for his purpose. He’ll end it when his purpose is realized. And, that purpose is global repentance.

Let’s get on board, folks!

Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in South Los Angeles.

Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column appears monthly in The Wave and on its website,

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