What I Don’t Know About George Floyd

What I Don’t Know About George Floyd

Let me tell you what I know after nearly 67 years on this planet. I do not know very much, and I certainly don’t know everything. In fact, most of what I THINK I know, I don’t know. Doris and I have been married 42 years. I think I know her more than any other human being alive. But there is more about her that I don’t know than I do. For example, I have never had a baby, (Shocking isn’t it?) I don’t know what that feels like. I have had a really bad stomach ache. It probably feels a lot like that. (I know!) I have never been through menopause. (I’m not saying she has, I’m just using this as an example.) I know more about my wife than any other person in my life but I don’t KNOW everything she is feeling or thinking.

As I have watched our nation come apart at the seams over the last week, after the senseless killing of George Floyd, I have had that thought over and over again. I don’t know. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know what to do. And I certainly don’t know what black Americans are feeling and thinking right now. I can agree or disagree with their words. I can be supportive of or alarmed by their actions. BUT I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE FEELING! I have to start there.

That doesn’t make me bad or good. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. It is, however, the necessary starting place for me. Admitting that I don’t know raises up in me a commitment to learn, to listen, to engage, to try to know, as much as I possibly can.

So…yesterday, I phoned a friend. (That’s what you do when you don’t know on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?) Actually, not a friend but an acquaintance that I respect and admire. Sumatra Drayton is the principal of Holloway High School. It is an amazing alternative school in our county. They take the students that the other schools have given up on and love them, encourage them, guide them to graduation when, most assuredly they would not have made it anywhere else. The kids that Ms. Drayton watches over come from places that I don’t know. They face challenges, have experienced things, have feelings and fears that I don’t know about. And without her, and her staff, they would end up…well, I don’t know where they would end up.

I called Sumatra (She said I could call her Sumatra) and asked if I could visit her in her office and ask about the things that I don’t know. She is African-American. She is smart, articulate, accomplished. And she has felt and does feel things that I don’t know. We had a great hour together. We laughed. We teared up. We leaned in. And I tried to LISTEN. Not to try and impress her with my compassion or challenge her with my opinions. JUST LISTEN!

Let me let you know about one moment in that conversation. There is much more that I will try to express at a later date, but this one moment. Ms. Drayton was telling me about watching the video of the death of George Floyd. She said she resisted watching it for a while. She has seen plenty. Experienced a good share. But she finally watched it. She said, “I was most shaken, not even by what was happening to him, but by the crowd of people (mainly black people) that were standing around screaming at the cops, begging them to get off of George Floyd.” “They were helpless,” she said. “They knew that they could not intervene or something worse would happen. The police could open fire on them.”

When Sumatra Drayton said that to me, for the first time I knew something that I had never known before. I leaned in and asked, “Is that how you feel? Do you feel that helplessness that something needs to be done but you can’t do it?” And my new friend, a respected, influential black woman in a fairly accepting, compassionate community in Middle Tennessee, just said, “Yes.”

Now, I don’t know about all of that. I don’t know even how her helplessness affects her. My guess it affects people differently. Some withdraw into their own little circles and isolate from anybody that is not of their tribe. Some redouble their efforts to fit in, be accepted, learn the white man’s ways so as not to rock the boat. And some break windows and burn cars and steal flat-screen TVs. I may deplore their behavior BUT I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY FEEL. This I do know, if it is helplessness then I cannot stay silent. I can’t sit on the sidelines and let them try to work it out. If they feel like they cannot be heard because of the color of their skin then I need to, as a white man, who has never felt what they feel, I need to try to be a voice for them. And for any class of people that feels helpless and unheard. I do know that I have to try to speak on behalf of Sumatra, and Marlena, and DeJuan, and Bone, and my good friend Ron on the picture above, people that I love and THINK I know, but really do not.

What do I say? Well, I don’t know. In order to figure that out, I need to listen more. I need to keep my big mouth shut, put my own opinions and impressions on the back burner for a minute, get off of FaceBook, and sit down with people that look different from me and get to know them. I need to hear so that I can know what I do not know. And I need to ask my white friends to join me in that endeavor. Will you?

Oh, one other thing. I need to know how to get back on Doris’s good side after that menopause crack.

note: For those of you that follow my podcast, “What Difference Does That Make?” I hope to air a special edition in the next few days that contains a part of my conversation with Ms. Drayton. You can download it wherever you get your podcasts.

22 Responses to What I Don’t Know About George Floyd

  1. as always thank you Pastor Mike for your wisdom and your words, we all need to listen more and speak less. Me most of all. I have been angry with the police officers but angry with the one wrecking the stores, bldgs and doing the things that are so wrong. I don’t understand how that helps anything and praying God will show me.

  2. Dr. Mike, I have been searching my own heart about all of this in the last week. I was especially stirred when I heard the video post on FB of a lady with a Virgin Island ancestry who lives in Nashville and is a very talented worship leader in her racially mixed church. What she had to say would qualify as an excellent Sunday morning sermon. I’ve known her since she was a child and she’s now a mother with a talented daughter who is entering Lee University this fall. I was very troubled by the feelings of fear and rejection in a predominately white culture in which she lives.

    I guess my concern that I have with all that’s happening is what excuse do the WHITE rioters have for the violence and destruction and theft they are fomenting in their cities? Maybe I’m off subject but that’s one of my concerns at this time.

  3. A dear friend shared your msg Your perspective is timely, as I watched the news Tues and it troubled me to my core.
    I, too, do not know; and I need to listen.!! God requires that of
    each of us. May we believers “lean in” with a humble, caring heart, as we embrace and share the love and hope it n our Lord .
    Thank you for this message, and encouragement.

  4. Thank you Mike for taking the time to find out what is really going on and why! Hope others take on your challenge and take the time to understand those who are not like them. We need each other but we have to understand and respect each other before we can ever come together.

  5. This is absolutely one of the best things I have read on this subject, and every single word resonated with me.

  6. What an awesome thing to do. To reach out to your friend & look in to her eyes…and just listen to her. I am extremely moved by her answer because my first response, when I was also able to finally look at that horrific video, was immediately to question why no one did anything! I couldn’t understand that. How could they not run over there & push or shove them off?!? 8+ minutes!!! You’d have to hold me back!! But…after reading this…sadly I (think) get it. THEY COULDN’T!! Maybe I could’ve…I’m an older white women. I may have been arrested but probably not harmed. But for them…it very well could’ve cost them their lives. I know we are better than this and I am so hopeful that we can move forward with a much better understanding and pure love for one another. God bless.

  7. We are given a direct command to not judge who is going to heave. But everything else is on the table. The big question we each have to answer: is this inspiration (yes, this one right here right now— for me writing, for you reading— from our HP, God as we each understand God?

    Yes, seems to me finding you for the first time just now (thanks @CharlesFowler) it is, I’ve been praying and writing about this very thing on my newsfeed this morning.

  8. I encourage you to listen to Lisa Sharon Harper @FreedomRoad.com or FB. Her book The Good Gospel is an excellent place to start. Being in a posture to listen is our first step.

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