Cities in nearly every state have suffered nine nights of unmitigated anarchy and riots with no end in sight, because our nation has embraced a culture of lies in America. Fear, ignorance, and misplaced good intentions have prompted far too many people to ignore facts in favor of preferred narratives promoted by the media and certain politicians. However, there is a cost to suppressing the truth. A nation that embraces a culture of lies eventually sacrifices peace and justice. Moreover, those who defend truth find themselves victims of a society that will protect its preferred narrative at all costs, “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey” (Isaiah 59:14–15).
Given the available evidence, it is difficult to imagine any justifiable reason for Officer Derek Chauvin to press his knee upon the neck of a subdued George Floyd in Minneapolis for nearly nine minutes. Likewise, it is unconscionable that three other officers in uniform would stand by as deadly force was used upon Floyd for an additional almost four minutes after he lost consciousness. Moreover, it is an affront to justice that these officers were not immediately indicted for their actions which caused George Floyd’s death.
Such an apparently straight-forward and documented case of police brutality brought together Americans of all colors on both sides of the political aisle. However, our news media and government officials were not content to see Americans rally in support of George Floyd merely out of a sense of human decency and the American ideal of belonging to a citizenry ruled by law. Despite no factual evidence that the police officers’ actions were motivated by racism, they demanded that Americans accept George Floyd’s experience as evidence of a systemic racism in America that places black lives at high risk of being murdered by police officers.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey framed this event in racial terms, saying, “Being Black in America should not be a death sentence. For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a Black man’s neck.” This racial framing continued when CNN’s Brook Baldwin interviewed Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins. After breaking into tears and admitting her own “white privilege,” Baldwin asked Jenkins, “You call racism a ‘disease,’ what do you want to tell white America, not just to listen, but to act?” Jenkins answered, “A, stop killing us, B, give black people opportunities to live full healthy lives. … We need white people to stop perpetuating the system of racism.”
Even President Obama promoted the narrative that George Floyd’s death was a natural consequence of America’s systemic racism, writing in a statement, “It’s natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal’ as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’—whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.”
When protests turned violent and descended into looting and rioting, the news media and government officials excused the lawlessness as an almost-to-be-expected expression of black Americans’ pain and frustration. MSNBC reporter Ali Velshi stood in front of burning buildings in Minneapolis while telling Brian Williams, “There is a deep sense of grievance and complaint here, and that is the thing. That when you discount people who are doing things to public property that they shouldn’t be doing, it does have to be understood that this city has got, for the last several years, an issue with police, and it’s got a real sense of the deep sense of grievance of inequality.”
Similarly, CNN’s Sara Sidner told Chris Cuomo, “I know people see violence and think that people are just taking advantage of the situation, and there may be some people who are. I don’t know that every single person is doing this born out of pain, but I can tell you many people are. We’ve seen it. They don’t know what to do with that emotion, so their response—especially young folks—is to lash out.” Even the Pulitzer-Prize winning author behind the New York Times’ 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, excused the rioting in a CBS News interview: “I think one, we need to be really careful with our language, um, yes it is disturbing to see property being destroyed. It is disturbing to see people take property from stores, but these are things and violence is when an agent of the state kneels on a man’s neck until all of the life is leached out of his body. Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence.”
Americans are repeatedly told that innocent black people are killed by police on a regular basis. The NFL Player’s Coalition issued the statement, “It seems like every week a new tragedy unfolds before our very eyes, where people are being killed by police violence. Each time, we tweet, we pray, we mourn, only to repeat the cycle a few days later.” Likewise, Ben Crump, the lawyer for the Floyd family, wrote in the Washington Post, “Our society and its institutions place a perilously low value on black lives, and it’s inherently dangerous to be black in America. … It starts to feel like genocide.”
However, this entire narrative is demonstrably false. Ignoring the highly controversial questions of whether there is widespread racism in America and whether blacks are considered more suspect by officers of the law, black Americans are not at high risk of being murdered by police. Protest signs reading “being black should not be a death sentence,” “stop killing us,” and “a badge is not a license to kill” are based upon the fictitious narrative that white police officers regularly kill unarmed black people, which is journalistic shorthand for “white people unjustly shooting a black man, because their racial prejudice led them to assume he was a threat.”
In her Wall Street Journal article “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism,” Heather MacDonald notes that police fatally shot nine unarmed blacks in 2019, according to a Washington Post database. Interestingly, the Post defined “unarmed” broadly to include cases such as a suspect in Newark, New Jersey who had a loaded handgun in his car during a police chase. Out of an estimated 375 million contacts that police officers have with civilians every year, nine unarmed black deaths hardly seems indicative of racist police killing sprees—particularly when compared against the 19 unarmed whites who were killed by police in 2019. (To be clear, these were not subdued suspects. They were aggressive, having attacked officers in five of the cases, and some used cars and other objects as weapons.)
Of the 1,004 people who were shot and killed by police officers in 2019, only about a quarter were black (235)—a ratio that has remained stable since 2015. McDonald writes, “That share of black victims is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings are a function of how often officers encounter armed and violent suspects. In 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population.”
On average, three black people are killed for every 10,000 arrested for violent crimes, but among whites, the number increases to four deaths for every 10,000 violent crime arrests. Indeed, black Americans are far more likely to be killed by a fellow black person. From 1980 through 2008, 93% of black victims were killed by blacks. Moreover, black-on-white homicides was several times higher than white-on-black homicides.
Incredibly, unarmed black suspects are more likely to be shot and killed by a black or Hispanic police officer than they are a white officer. This is the finding of studies by both the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama and an African-American Harvard economist. Heather McDonald writes, “A 2015 Justice Department analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department found that white police officers were less likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot unarmed black suspects. Research by Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer Jr. also found no evidence of racial discrimination in shootings. Any evidence to the contrary fails to take into account crime rates and civilian behavior before and during interactions with police.”
While there are certainly exceptional officers who abuse their authority, there simply is no truth to the notion that unarmed black people need to fear being shot by racist white police officers. Neither is there any reason to believe that police can shoot black suspects with immunity but that there would be a widespread uprising if the victim were white. Video footage of Daniel Shaver being shot while on his knees in a hotel hallway, crying and begging for his life, failed to result in a conviction for the officer who killed him. Likewise, Tony Timpa was suffocated to death during an arrest. He pleaded for his life 30 times before dying. Police then laughed and joked over his dead body. Both of these were white men, but they failed to attract similar national attention as George Floyd, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, or other nationally known black victims.
Like a cancerous tumor, this insidious lie that America is a systemically racist country whose law enforcement officers regularly threaten the very lives of black people has steadily grown and is now metastasizing. It has convinced many that America is founded upon a system that was built to protect and advantage one privileged race at the expense of another. They believe this system cannot be reformed; rather, it must be replaced. And now cities in nearly every state are in flames as anarchists, often supported by government officials, actively seek to demolish what remains of historic America so that something new can be erected in its place.
Is it any wonder that our nation has been stripped of its peace and justice? Is it any wonder that those who remain discerning enough to challenge this pernicious narrative make themselves targets (Isa. 59:14–15)? A culture of lies cannot be ignored. There are very real consequences to ignoring the truth. Nevertheless, it is not too late. There remains a quickly closing window of opportunity to reject this lie and defend truth before this lie is codified in new laws and policies.
Left unchecked, the fruit of this lie will steal, kill, and destroy everything that once defined our country. Unfortunately, many Americans are like Nero who fiddled as Rome burned. We are frittering away our remaining time. Fearful of being labeled a racist or uncaring, we are reluctant to speak the above truths to those with whom we regularly interact. However, if we refuse to defend truth even to our friends and family in a time such as this, we will have no one to blame for the difficulties that will likely ensue.
1. Culver, Jordan. “What We Know about the Death of George Floyd: 4 Minneapolis Police Officers Fired after ‘Horrifying’ Video Hits Social Media.” USA Today, May 26, 2020, 10:17 p.m., ET. Last updated May 27, 2020, 12:49 a.m., ET. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/05/26/george-floyd-minneapolis-police-officers-fired-after-public-backlash/5263193002/.
2. Jany, Libor. “Minneapolis Police, Protesters Clash Almost 24 Hours after George Floyd’s Death in Custody.” Star Tribune, May 27, 2020, 12:55 p.m. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/george-floyd-death-autopsies-homicide-axphyxiation-details/.
3. Donaghue, Erin. “Two Autopsies Both Find George Floyd Died by Homicide, but Differ on Some Key Details.” News. CBS News, June 4, 2020, 10:15 am. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/george-floyd-death-autopsies-homicide-axphyxiation-details/.
4. Frey, Jacob. 2020. “Being Black in America should not be a death sentence.” Facebook, May 26, 2020, 5:23 a.m. https://www.facebook.com/MayorFrey/posts/630804544173539?__tn__=-R.
5. “Brooke Baldwin Tears up about George Floyd: I’m So Angry.” YouTube video, 9:40. Posted by CNN, May 28, 2020. https://youtu.be/DsLufzbHIoY.
6. Obama, Barack (@BarackObama). 2020. “My Statement on the Death of George Floyd.” Twitter, May 29, 2020, 12:06 p.m. https://twitter.com/BarackObama/status/1266400635429310466.
7. Prestigiacomo, Amanda. “WATCH: MN Protests Mostly Peaceful, MSNBC Reporter Assures Viewers While Standing in Front of Burning Buildings.” Daily Wire, May 29, 2020. https://www.dailywire.com/news/watch-mn-protests-mostly-peaceful-msnbc-reporter-says-while-standing-in-front-of-burning-buildings.
8. Houck, Curtis (@CurtisHouck). 2020. “This isn’t journalism.” Twitter, May 31, 2020, 11:24 p.m. https://twitter.com/CurtisHouck/status/1267295968900329472.
9. CBS News (@CBSNews). 2020. “Violence is when an agent of the state kneels on a man’s neck until all of the life is leached out of his body.” Twitter, June 2, 2020, 1:55 p.m. https://twitter.com/CBSNews/status/1267877443911778306.
10. “Players Coalition Issues Statement Regarding George Floyd’s Death.” NFL, May 30, 2020, 5:15 p.m. https://www.nfl.com/news/players-coalition-issues-statement-regarding-death-of-george-floyd.
11. Crump, Ben. “Another Unarmed Black Person Has Been Killed. It’s No Wonder We Can’t Breathe.” Opinion. Washington Post, May 27, 2020, 6:55 p.m., EDT. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/another-unarmed-black-person-has-been-killed-its-no-wonder-we-cant-breathe/2020/05/27/38c73b26-a05d-11ea-b5c9-570a91917d8d_story.html.
12. McBride, Kelly. “‘Unarmed Black Man’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means.” NPR, May 21, 2020, 5:00 a.m., ET. https://www.npr.org/sections/publiceditor/2020/05/21/859498255/unarmed-black-man-doesnt-mean-what-you-think-it-means.
13. McDonald, Heather. “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism.” Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2020, 1:44 p.m., ET. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-myth-of-systemic-police-racism-11591119883?mod=opinion_lead_pos5.
14. Carlson, Tucker. Tucker Carlson Tonight: Fox News, June 3, 2020.
16. Walsh, Matt. “WALSH: Are Cops ‘Hunting down Black Men’? Statistics Say No.” Daily Wire, June 3, 2020. https://www.dailywire.com/news/walsh-are-cops-hunting-down-black-men-statistics-say-no.
17. “Patterns and Trends: Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980–2008.” US Department of Justice, November 2011. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf.
18. “Patterns and Trends: Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980–2008.”
19. McDonald, “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism.”
20. Walsh, “WALSH: Are Cops ‘Hunting down Black Men’? Statistics Say No.”
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