Derek Chauvin, the police officer convicted of killing George Floyd, was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison on June 25, 2021. There are many opinions regarding the correctness of this sentence. However, I continue to reflect on one of the most memorable statements made in the trial, which had a plethora of memorable moments and testimonies.
It is the words of Jerry Blackwell that continue to ring out with the poetic truth that permeated the courtroom on the final day of the trial. These words have special meaning because of the context of what happened after Floyd’s murder.
During the summer of 2020, when the entire nation could have rallied around the cause of justice, a significant part of the nation continued to justify one of the most abominable acts of police brutality ever recorded on video. As a result, one of the most diverse assemblages of Americans gathered for one of the largest national protests in our history to express their outrage at such an injustice.
Even though some news outlets chose to show only the tangential destruction that occurred with some of the protests, most of the mainstream media outlets showed representative coverage of the protests, including some of the destructive parts as well as the predominantly peaceful parts.
What people were expressing through their protests was what Blackwell, one of the prosecuting attorneys, said in his closing remarks at trial: “You were told, for example, that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big. You heard that testimony. And now having seen all the evidence, having heard all the evidence, you know the truth. And the truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.”
I prefer the paraphrase, “The reason Mr. Floyd died is not because his heart was too big, but because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.” This paraphrase will remain with me for the remainder of my life.
May my life reflect that my heart was too big rather than too small. Blackwell’s words should cause each of us to reflect on our spiritual condition. I cannot think of a more profound statement for our times.
Earl Chappell lives in Virginia Beach, Va., and has been a member of First Baptist Church of Norfolk since 1977.