Imagine if George Floyd was your father, brother or son. You watched him slowly suffocate to death. Now imagine someone said, “Well, he shouldn’t have passed a phony twenty-dollar bill?” How would you feel? Probably you’d be infuriated. Nothing could be less relevant in light of the injustice inflicted upon your loved one! When people point out the shortcomings of those who have been unjustly killed by white police officers, they are revealing their lack of empathy towards the victims and their loved ones and reinforcing a racist narrative.
So why are these irrelevant considerations so frequently brought up? The most basic answer is that whites are generally socialized into believing that the system is good and that the police justly enforce this system. They are thus socialized into believing that whenever anyone is harmed by police, they must have deserved it. This idea that “they had it coming” is just a way to try and protect the system.
Out of allegiance to Jesus, we encourage followers of Jesus to empathize fully with victims of injustice. When a white person can see those who are dehumanized and oppressed by the system as your own father or mother or brother or sister, they are better able to see through the shallowness and irrelevance of the system-protecting assumption that victims deserved what was coming to them.