RIP George Floyd: 402 years is enough

A very short post this time reference the current Derek Chauvin trial taking place in Minneapolis. As if this needs to be said, the trial is to decide the culpability of Derek Chauvin. It is NOT to decide George Floyd’s guilt or innocence. Since 1619 we’ve seen such misdirection by various entities when a Black person runs afoul of our laws, a white person interacts with them, and the Black man ends up dead. For 402 years it’s been happening, that, inexplicably, Black people stand trial for the very inequities whites have perpetuated for too many years.

I don’t watch the news, but I don’t live in a cave, either. So I know what’s going on around this trial, and how certain media are depicting it. I’m utterly and wholly disgusted by certain implications I’ve heard, not just from Chauvin’s defense attorney, but from people discussing the trial, and from unavoidable media commentary implying that George Floyd was responsible for his own demise.

George Floyd is dead. George Floyd is not on trial. It beggars belief that I even need to write those words. Allow me to present the following questions. (I’m looking at you, my white colleagues.)

1—If Derek Chauvin was Black, and George Floyd was white, would Floyd still be on trial?

2—If Derek Chauvin had been the victim, would his health status be evidentiary?

3—If George Floyd had been white, would his rap sheet be an issue in this trial?

4—If Floyd’s death had never been recorded, would we be having this trial at all?

From the top: 1— if Black Officer George Floyd had knelt on Derek Chauvin’s white neck, suffocating and killing him, I think we all know what could have happened. The city could have descended into chaos, as white citizens demanded Floyd be arrested and charged, or at least that possibility exists. I’ve been a white guy long enough to know exactly what the reaction would have been. By way of indirect example, we saw white men rampaging through our nation’s capitol in January, and they plundered away unmolested. I shudder to think what the reaction would have been had those men been Black. It would have been a bloodbath in that building, and many people would claim the violence agains them was justified.

2—If Black Officer George Floyd was on trial for killing white Derek Chauvin, would Chauvin’s poor health be an issue in his demise? Would we be saying that, since Chauvin neglected his health, he basically killed himself? If you believe we’d be having that discussion, I have some mountain view property in Florida I’d like to sell you.

3—If Officer Floyd had killed Derek Chauvin, would we be pointing at Chauvin’s rap sheet, his misdemeanors and even his criminal behaviors and basically saying he deserved to die? Since when have our police officers had the power to not only arrest, but to try, convict, and execute citizens? Did I miss that memo?

4—If the video of this despicable act had never surfaced, if it had happened before hand-held video cameras found their way into our individual possession, does anyone really believe the observers of George Floyd’s death would have been believed over Derek Chauvin’s word? Really? Do we have anything in our collective history to support that scenario?

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Let me be very clear about this: I give no support to those who want to defund police departments. I do support redirecting funds away from basic law enforcement into community action programs, which is what the ‘defund’ slogan actually intended, until right-wing media distorted its message. Also, I believe the overwhelming majority of police officers are fine, upstanding, hard-working, conscientious women and men. I also believe they have the toughest job there is. I salute all those who put on the blue uniform every day, do their very dangerous job in commendable fashion, and keep the bad guys away.

But here’s a story that weighs on my unequivocal assumption that the police always act in benevolent fashion, especially toward our Black neighbors & friends. Many years ago I served in the Ohio National Guard with a (white) fellow who was a retired Columbus cop. He told me that at that time, again several years ago, it was routine for police officers to carry an unmarked, untraceable weapon with them as they patrolled the beat. The purpose of the contraband weapon was this: If they were to shoot and kill a Black man, for whatever reason, then discovered he was unarmed, they discharged the hidden gun, then placed it in the victim’s hand, and claimed self-defense. It was common practice.

Another story, related to that one: Days after the LA freeway chase of OJ Simpson, I heard two Black women chatting with each other about Mr. Simpson’s seemingly errant behavior. Here’s what one of those women said: ‘Of course he ran away, he’s innocent!’ Now…as a white man in this society, her statement seemed outrageous to me. If OJ was innocent, I thought, why would he feel the need to run? Then I remembered the Columbus PD practice, the assumption police forces make about the guilt of Black men in America, and how that assumption informs their too often derelict behavior.

Back to George Floyd. There is no reason Mr. Floyd should be dead. None. Not to prejudge Derek Chauvin, he’s entitled to a fair trial, of course he is. But to see George Floyd being tried for his own demise is simply incomprehensible to me. Why does any of his background, his health, his rap sheet, his behavior that day, or the color of his skin matter? And if it’s simply the last factor, the color of his skin, then why do so many of my white friends and family still need to ask why we need a Black Lives Matter movement?

Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. Derek Chauvin is on trial. As he should be. RIP George Floyd. Here’s hoping your death finally wakes us up to the inequities that exist in this society. I believe 402 years is enough.

Thank you for reading.