“Then the Lord God formed man, of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

The scriptural text above shows that after creating man, he was nothing but created dust. But by God’s breath upon him, man became a living being. No one has the right to take this breath of God upon man away from him…

Floyd being suffocated to death

The horrific day-light suffocation and gruesome murder of an African-American, George Floyd, by four Policemen of the Minneapolis Police Department, has left me in such shock that I am still struggling to come out of it.

I cannot believe that such a horrible face of racial discrimination and brutality will still be seen in the 21st century, when the United States prides herself as the world’s power, which by implication could mean one of the most civilized nations on earth.

I have been wondering and imagining how the likes of Martin Luther King Junior, who fought with their lives to end racial discrimination in America, and by extension in the world, would have reacted to such news.

There is no inhumanity, or violation of human rights that is worse than gruesome murder, in broad day light, with many witnesses. It is the total desecration of the sanctity of human life.

As I watched the over ten minutes video, I saw a helpless man, pinned to the ground, like a sheep ready for slaughter, crying, struggling and gasping for breath, saying, “I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe….” Yet, the so called power-drunk policemen who are supposed to enforce law and order, as well as protect life, freedom and security, were the perpetrators of this criminal offense.

Would it have been possible for a fellow white folk to be suffocated to death in like manner? I have asked myself time and again, what offense Floyd could have committed that his fundamental rights should be so violated, in broad day light, in America, the land of the free and the brave?

The policemen said he resisted arrest, but a CCTV footage has emerged on social media, showing Floyd never resisted arrest as alleged. Why then was he suffocated to death in the sight of helpless onlookers.

The New York Times of May 27, 2020, reported that George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died on May 25th after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a police officer’s knee, in an incident that was recorded on video that sparked large protests in Minneapolis.

Floyd’s murder sparked a global outrage that has led to the firing of the officers, identified as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, by the Minneapolis Police Department, on May 27th (cf. New York Times). Both men and women of several races ignored social distancing principles as they took to the streets to demand Justice for Floyd.

While watching the news on CNN on 27th of May, I saw Floyd’s relatives calling for justice. “They treated him worse than they treat animals,” Philonise Floyd, Floyd’s brother told CNN.

Similarly, reacting to the murder, Jacob Frey, the Mayor of Minneapolis also condemned the officers’ inhuman actions, and called on the prosecutors to file charges against the officer who had his knee on Floyd’s neck. In his words, “I want to see a charge take place. I want to see justice for George Floyd.” Consequently, the FBI has also started its investigation on the case.

Whatever Floyd’s offense, no one has the right to take the life of another, let alone in such an inhumane manner. It is indeed a confirmation of the famous quote of Samuel von Pufendorf in 1673 that, “More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes.”

It is our collective hope that those shameless policemen will be brought to justice, and so serve as deterrents to those who pride themselves as superior because of the colour of their skin, or their easy access to guns.

As I watched the protest against the policemen, I wept for America. I wept for our world. But I was consoled by the solidarity demonstrated by hundreds of white folks who took to the streets to protest the murder of Floyd.

With emotions still running deep, I recalled the history of racial equality championed by Martin Luther King Junior in the early 60s, for which he paid the supreme sacrifice of assassination.

I recalled how white men and women joined in the numerous protests to end the crime of racial discrimination. I recalled Martin Luther’s famous quote in his famous “I Have A Dream,” of August 28th, 1963, in Washington DC, where he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

But the question is, has that dream come true? Only time shall tell.

In the words of the famous African Reggae icon of blessed memory, Lucky Dube, in the hit track, “Together as One,” he noted, “Black, white, colored, we are all created in the image and likeness of God.” I hope those white extremists or over zealous policemen and their likes will one day come to that realization.

Finally, as Americans protest the death of Floyd, and as the rest of the world condemn his horrific death, let us not forget quickly a similar brutality and murder of a 43yr old Eric Garner on July 17th, 2014 on the streets of Staten Island, in New York, under a similar circumstance that saw Garner choked to death by officer Pantaleo.

The same words repeated by Garner, “I can’t breathe…” 11 times while his face lay down by the sidewalk, were equally repeated by Floyd on the dark and bloody Monday of May 25th, 2020.

May the soul of George Floyd and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace, and may God grant his family the fortitude to bear the loss, Amen.

© Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP

Israel ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.

Featured Image Credit @Pixabay