Despite calls from Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden to take the country back and restore its soul, the soul of America died long ago. If she ever had one.
Thousands of people in the streets don’t signal an awakening in America, it is another sign of the failures of this nation.
The only thing that seems to move the powerful and the White in this country is the most graphic loss of Black life, captured in such vivid horror that it is hard to deny alongside property damage that comes as the unheard use of the only language they have of unrest and insurrection.
Such outright exposure of White hatred, disdain and systemic oppression of Black people forces Whites to come face-to-face with an ugly reality inside the United States. Some protest in reaction to brutal murder and injustice. Others seek to enjoy anarchistic destruction and push Black bodies to the frontline of a so-called revolution. Then there are thrill seekers who want an experience, an awesome pic or video for social media accounts.
The Memorial Day death of 46-year-old George Floyd, as then police officer Derek Chauvin jammed his knee into the man’s neck, ignited protests across the country. Black America has taken its collective pain, anguish and outrage to the streets.
The main 10-minute viral video of his killing, and what many call murder, is the latest example of the tragic reality of Black life inside the world’s greatest democracy.
Mr. Floyd, a former South Florida State College basketball player, even begs for his mother as life drains from his body. The White man charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter dismissed any concern for the safety of a clearly distressed Mr. Floyd as he lay on his stomach.
The White cop sits smugly, hands in his pockets, knee on the neck of a fellow human being. And, as in many other cases where a cop ends up in a fatal encounter with a Black civilian, Mr. Chauvin, who was quickly fired after the Floyd death, had 18 complaints lodged against him in a 19-year career.
His worst punishment was two verbal reprimands. So much for crocodile tears and statements of outrage prompted by an undeniable video.
Justice isn’t a momentary reaction to an undeniable horror. Justice isn’t words of regret. Justice isn’t being unmasked as a fraud on the world stage. Justice is the practice of fair dealing. Justice is equality of opportunity and equal punishment under the law and one standard for what is right.
Justice is a life for a life when the taking of a life is unjust.
Is White America willing to rise to that standard?
Or is this another moment of voyeuristic, perverse race opera that will be forgotten in a few weeks? How long will it take to forget a man’s plaintive cry, “I can’t breathe?”
Charges must come also for former officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueing who took part in the deadly encounter. All were swiftly fired by the Minnesota police department.
The Twin Cities–St. Paul and Minneapolis–suffered damage or destruction to several hundred buildings and businesses and the torching of the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct, which was home to officers involved in the Floyd death.
President Donald Trump tweeted, “These thugs are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control. But when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Such words reflect the president’s thoughts and the sentiments of millions. These words were originally spoken in 1967 by Miami police chief Walter Headley. The president later tried to walk back the looting and shooting comments, which had drawn widespread condemnation. But you can’t hide what you really feel.
What provoked the police encounter in the first place? According to the criminal complaint filed against Mr. Chauvin, police received a call from a store saying a man had made a purchase with a counterfeit $20 bill. Officers arrived, approached Mr. Floyd in nearby car and took him into custody.
How does that alleged offense end in a death?
According to the charging document against Mr. Chauvin, “While standing outside the car, Mr. Floyd began saying and repeating that he could not breathe.” He was eventually taken to the ground.
“[Mr. Chauvin] placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck. Mr. Floyd said, ‘I can’t breathe’ multiple times and repeatedly said, ‘Mama’ and ‘please,’ as well. The defendant and the other two officers stayed in their positions.”
Body cam video showed Mr. Floyd stopped moving and appears to stop breathing and speaking. One officer says he wants to roll Mr. Floyd on his side and another officer tries and fails to find a pulse.
Mr. Chauvin is on Mr. Floyd’s neck the entire time. He keeps his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for almost three minutes after he is not moving. An ambulance and emergency medical personnel arrive, take Mr. Floyd away and he is later pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Mr. Floyd obviously would not have died without the knee on his neck.
It’s tragic but each death only brings us closer to our ultimate destiny of true freedom, justice and equality. We are being shown the truth of what America is all about. And, we cannot live with these people in peace.