- Christopher Crossan
George Floyd's Death and the Existence of Evil (contains disturbing images)
evil /ˈēvəl/ definition: profoundly immoral and wicked; the opposite of good.
The killing of George Floyd last May was one of the most egregious crimes in recent U.S. history. People from every nation who watched the video of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin suffocating him to death were horrified, describing it as pure evil. But consider this: it wasn't that long ago that such an act of violence toward a black man was regarded as a normal part of the human evolutionary process.
To exterminate means "to kill off or destroy completely." Notice that it includes the word terminate which means, “to end.” It is usually used in reference to insects or rodents, but also unfortunately in reference to people or groups of people. (Vocabulary.com)
In 1871, Charles Darwin justified such atrocities of Whites against Blacks with these words:
"At some future period the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state…even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro…and the gorilla."
Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man. United Kingdom, D. Appleton and Company, 1871.
Labeling African tribes as savage races and the Caucasians as civilized races, Darwin unveiled his presupposition that all humans are animals - nothing more. As such, they are not born equal, nor do they possess any intrinsic value. They are in competition with each other, with the strong surviving and the weak dying. Just as animals fight for their survival, so do humans. In his mind, the less developed African tribes would be exterminated and replaced by the more developed European ones. When human life was no longer sacred, the implications were chilling.
Steeped in his father's worldview, Leonard Darwin served as president of the British Eugenics Society from 1911-1929, and published a book called What is Eugenics? in 1928. (Eugenics means 'good genes.') His goal was to promote the growth of the world's Aryan intelligentsia while reducing the population of humanity's 'inferior stock.'
Paul Popenoe, a U.S. Army venereal disease specialist during World War I, agreed with these sentiments. In his 1918 textbook, Applied Eugenics, he glibly stated that systematic killing was historically a viable solution, saying,
“From an historical point of view, the first method which presents itself is execution…It’s value in keeping up the standard of the race should not be underestimated.”
However, he maintained that "to put to death defectives or delinquents is wholly out of accord with the spirit of the times," and he proposed sterilization as the preferred "method of restriction."
- Popenoe, Paul, and Johnson, Roswell Hill. Applied Eugenics. United States,
Macmillan, 1920. p. 184.
Likewise, while Leonard Darwin acknowledged that extermination would be the most expedient way of reducing this population, he also recommended sterilization and looked to the State of California's policies for inspiration.
"It has been said that the future welfare of our nation might be greatly improved by attention now being paid to the breed of the coming generations. This could be done by either making superior stock leave more and inferior stock leave fewer descendants behind them...As to the inferior types, we cannot, as we have seen, reduce the number of their descendants by the simple expedient of murder. All that can be done is to lessen the size of their families.
"Luckily, there is one place in the world, though only one place, to which we can look when seeking for practical information in regard to sterilization; and that is the State of California in the United States."
- Darwin, Leonard. What is Eugenics?. "Chapter VII - Inferior Stocks." United Kingdom, Watts & Company, 1929.
With the encouragement of the Human Betterment Foundation, by 1928 the State of California had already begun sterilizing individuals (especially Blacks and Latinos) who were deemed unfit for procreation. The Chicago Tribune summarizes:
"Case histories offer a glimpse of the more than 20,000 people who were, by law, sterilized in state hospitals from 1909 through the 1960s in anticipation of curing an array of social ills, from poverty and promiscuity to overcrowded institutions."
- Chicago Tribune, "California Confronts its Eugenics History," July 17, 2003
In the 1930s, California's eugenics leaders exported their know-how to physicians in Nazi Germany. Shortly thereafter Germany began sterilizing their own 'inferior stock' at the rate of 5,000 people per month. The poster below illustrates the mentality of the times.
[The poster (c. 1937) reads: "60,000 RM [German Marks] is what this person with hereditary illness costs the community in his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money too. Read Neues Volk [New People], the monthly magazine of the Office of Racial Policy of the Nazi Party."]
So impactful was the eugenics movement in German-controlled Europe, that ordinary citizens joined in the government's racial cleansing, beating Jews and killing them in public.
A Jewish woman is chased by men and boys with clubs during the Lviv pogroms, July 1941
On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, and in March of that year the city of Dachau hosted Germany's first concentration camp.
Not willing to wait an entire generation in order to reduce their numbers through sterilization, Hitler preferred 'the expedient of murder.' He began applying the Final Solution to the country's undesirables through their systematic extermination, all in the name of preserving the Aryan race. By 1945, 6-10 million handicapped, Gypsies, Poles and Jews were slaughtered.
Senator Alben Barkley, a member of the congressional committee examining
the Nazi atrocities, visiting the Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar in 1945.
While Germany was busy fulfilling their national anthem's dream of being "Deutschland über alles," the eugenics leader, Margaret Sanger, spearheaded efforts to curtail the growth of America's minorities by establishing birth control clinics, which later became Planned Parenthood. To her, birth control meant
"the release and cultivation of the better elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extinction, of defective stocks—those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization."
— Margaret Sanger, High Lights in the History of Birth Control (1923)
Looking back at these historical realities brings us a conundrum. If only 80 years ago, the extermination of a black man's life could be dismissed as a necessary step toward human betterment in the United States and in Europe, how can we so resolutely claim in 2020 that George Floyd's death was pure evil?
If we accept Darwin's claim that human beings have no creator...if they are simply the product of random biological processes, then shouldn't we refrain from using terms like good and evil, since there is no universal morality to help us define these terms? And if evolutionary forces dictate all of life, why should we balk at seeing one part of the human family annihilating another? Shouldn't that be encouraged so that the strong can supplant the weak?
But I submit to you that we are not animals. Each of us has intrinsic value, for
God created man in his own image.
In God’s image he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
I submit to you that evil does exist,
that murder is a heinous crime,
that Chauvin, Darwin, Hitler and Sanger will one day meet their Maker,
that those who take an innocent person's life deserve retribution.
As God told Noah after the flood,
Whoever sheds man’s blood,
his blood will be shed by man,
for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:6)
I submit to you that to use your power to mistreat someone in a weaker position is to invite the wrath of God, for he has particular concern for the oppressed. As the psalmist wrote,
God executes justice for the oppressed;
He gives food to the hungry.
The LORD frees the prisoners.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD raises up those who are bowed down.
The LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD preserves the foreigners.
He upholds the fatherless and widow,
but he turns the way of the wicked upside down. (Psalm 146:7-9)
I submit to you that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,
that among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
When that day comes, we can all breathe again.