Last week, Mr. George Floyd was murdered by police officers in Minneapolis. The police had responded to a “Forgery in Progress” call and Mr. Floyd was handcuffed and pushed to the asphalt. Officer Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran with the Police department, had Mr. Floyd handcuffed and on the ground. He then forced his knee into the neck of the prostrate Mr. Floyd who continually complained of his inability to breathe. Eric Gardner’s death in New York City immediately comes to mind.
I watched the video and was horrified. The worst of it was when Mr. Floyd called out for his long-deceased mother, “Mama. Mama.” And don’t say something stupid like, “If he could talk, he could breathe.” I’ve heard that idiocy before. Asphyxiation isn’t the same as inability to breathe. Compressive asphyxiation deprives oxygen to the brain by means of facial compression, neck compression, or chest compression.
The ambulance arrived and checked for a pulse as Chauvin kept his knee on the unconscious Mr. Floyd. When they drug Mr. Floyd’s limp form onto the stretcher, it was unbelievable. It made me wonder if Chauvin’s report was going to read NHI—No Humans Involved. The same code used to describe the killing of black men in the South back not-that-long-ago.
Certainly, though, the only human involved in that sorry scene was Mr. Floyd himself. Chauvin and his thugs were something less than.
Jesse Fischer, a Jazz bass player with the band AJOYO, told me the following:
A few years ago, I did a gig at a venue in the city and got paid in cash, as per usual. The next day, I went to the corner store to get some groceries for my family and paid with a $20 bill from the night before. The owner who was ringing me up took one look at the bill and laughed at me. I thought he was kidding when he said it was a fake but, sure enough, it looked nothing like a real 20. I had just stupidly taken the money in the wee hours of the early morning and the darkness of a back stairwell and didn’t even think twice to check. We kind of laughed it off and I paid with another 20 and went on my way home with the groceries.
George Floyd’s interaction with the police began because he passed a fake 20 to buy cigarettes at the corner store. “Forgery in progress” makes it sound like he was trying to rob a bank for 5 figures. It was literally a fake 20 and he may not have had any idea it wasn’t legit. If you can’t see how something as mundane as going to the corner store can have consequences that are a universe apart for Black Americans and someone who looks like me, then I have no words.
I’m seeing so many more White and non-Black people in my network post feelings of anger, support and allyship and that encourages me. This is a conversation that needs to keep building among US. Figuring out how to process NON-JUDGMENTALLY and what concrete steps we can do to initiate change. This is our burden to bear, like it or not. Just to be clear (in case there are some who are questioning): when I acknowledge my white privilege, I’m not saying anything about how easy or hard my life has been, how much I’ve struggled or how hard I worked, whether my ancestors owned enslaved people or financed the slave trade. It literally just means that whatever struggles I’ve had, have not been because of my race. You have white privilege at EVERY level of society, from the poorest of the poor to the extremely wealthy. At every level, you find Black people running up against obstacles that are just invisible to White people. We don’t notice them because they’re invisible to us.”
Chauvin, along with his three accomplices, were immediately fired when a video surfaced showing their crime against Mr. Floyd. I was relieved when Chauvin was arrested for murder and manslaughter. Then I heard from my friend Chris Darden, a former Assistant District Attorney in Los Angeles County.
He wrote. “Chauvin has been charged with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter. ‘3rd degree murder?’ You ask, ‘What does that mean?’ I will tell you what it means. It means the fix is in already. He won’t get life like you and I would get if we asphyxiated a defenseless person.”
I thank God for the police officers we have in our community. We have a police chief who is responsive, caring, and compassionate. The officers under his command follow his example. It wasn’t always that way for us. We had a thug of a police chief once before. So, don’t distort my anger at four police officers in Minneapolis as a dislike or distrust for all law enforcement everywhere.
But across this nation, we have witnessed the unspeakable murders of countless numbers of our African-American brothers at the hands of brutal law enforcement.
More, we have seen the murderers of our brothers and sisters getting away with murder or given soft-handed treatment by arresting officers. Remember the little piece of human excrement that slaughtered the Charleston 9 while they were in church? When the white officers apprehended the white murderer, they took him to Burger King.
The officers who murdered Eric Gardner were acquitted. Same with the one who killed Michael Brown.
My friend Gerry O’Sullivan reminded me of Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail from 1963.
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”
Enough is enough. It’s long been more than enough.
The riots are what is left when justice has been aborted.
It reminds me of something Malcolm X said, “That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.”
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