Tears flowed from my eyes this morning, though I am — or was — the type of man who prided himself on not crying.
What brought tears? I read that with his last conscious breath, George Floyd cried out in anguish for his mother.
Floyd was a large, strong, proud, vibrant and healthy man and yet as death rushed in upon him, he craved only the love of his mother.
His cry pierced my heart. In an instant, I knew that if I were in his place, pushed to the ground and choked by another man’s knee, I too would have called out for my mother.
Does that make me weak? No. It makes me human, and so was Floyd.
As I struggled with his death, I found my heart cracking open and I did the only thing I could think of at the time — I placed Floyd, his family, and his loved ones in my ailing heart and bore witness to his and their pain and suffering.
With my next breath, though, I surprised myself — by placing Derek Chauvin in my heart.
Does this make me weak? No. It makes me human, and so is Chauvin.
I remain outraged that a grown man — an officer of the law no less — could have such a hard and uncaring heart that for seven full minutes he was capable of slowly squeezing the life out of a fellow human being.
But the reality is that my heart, as well, has been hard and uncaring for too long. Thousands of similar deaths have occurred over the span of my five-and-a-half decades and I have looked the other way and barely raised a finger on behalf of justice.
I don’t have all the answers, but until we all soften our hearts and see both Floyd and Chauvin in ourselves — and as ourselves — little meaningful progress will be made.
I can’t bring George Floyd back. And I won’t protect Derek Chauvin from the hard justice that awaits him. I can only begin by changing myself.
I intend to do this by taking the pain, anger, fear, hate and contempt I feel, channeling it through my softening heart and working to transform it into love — the kind of love a mother has for her son, be he saint or sinner — and then strive of behalf of real and lasting justice for the disenfranchised and the downtrodden.
Jack Uldrich lives in Minneapolis.