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The Tragedy of George Floyd

I try to reply cordially to every letter WORLD members send me. During June I briefly apologized 20 times to reprimands for a mistake I made, but with letter 21 something broke, and I responded at greater length.

Thanks for your note. I was inaccurate to say George Floyd “by all accounts was a gentle giant.” Relatives, friends, and ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, USA Today, etc., characterized him that way, but I should have said “by almost all accounts.” Some conservatives emphasized his repeated arrests in Houston—most involving less than an ounce of drugs—and a severe instance of armed robbery for which he rightly went to prison for four years. But I’d challenge your characterization of him as a “thug”: Floyd came out of prison in 2013 and by some accounts was a changed man over the next seven years.

Does it matter that Floyd grew up in Houston’s Third Ward in the Cuney Homes housing project, where kids sang their version of a familiar jingle: “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Cuney Homes kid. They got so many rats and roaches I can play with”? Maybe not. Does it matter that he was more than 6 feet tall in middle school and didn’t get much of an education except in football and basketball, so when he wasn’t good enough to go pro he wasn’t trained in anything? Maybe not. I don’t know much about Third Ward life, but an old-timer did show me around there a few years back: A tough environment does not justify criminal activity, but maybe a person who grew up in one and messed up badly should get a second chance. 

Floyd after prison volunteered with Resurrection Houston church, which held many services on the Cuney Homes basketball court. Does it matter that he apparently set up chairs and a bathtub on the court for baptisms, and went door to door with Pastor Patrick Ngwolo, letting residents know about Bible studies and grocery deliveries? Maybe not. I don’t know much about the Christian program that brought him to Minnesota, and he did have drugs in his system when arrested. Would he have done well? We don’t know: Floyd died at age 46 when a police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes as other police officers watched.

Read more at World Magazine

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