While a global pandemic can shut down sporting events, concerts, public and private schools and other group gatherings, apparently, even a pandemic can’t stop some police officers from murdering unarmed black men.
George Floyd was detained and arrested on Monday night by police on suspicion of passing a counterfeit bill. He was unarmed and four police officers responded to the incident, captured by a teenage girl on video (above) that by now, much of the world has seen. The detainment of this unarmed black man led to murder.
In fact, the United Nations on May 29 called for a halt to police killings of unarmed black men. How precipitous our fall. Just 11 years after U.S. President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace prize, for “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people,” the United Nations, an international body, calls for massive reform in U.S. police practices because of the continued killing of unarmed black men in America.
Outrage at the barbaric killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin (and the three other officers present at the scene) has led to riots, looting, arrests and arson attacks in the city of Minneapolis. The protests spread to a dozen cities nationwide. It was the Reverend Martin Luther King himself who said “a riot is the language of the unheard.”
Can You Hear Us Now?
We can collectively condemn the rioters, the arsons and the looting that has taken place and, frankly, many of us will. But simply condemning these acts ignores this basic truth: those things are all symptomatic of the anger, frustration and pain that most black Americans feel in the wake of yet another police killing of an unarmed black man: will it ever end?
Black Americans have mounted and supported peaceful protests, like Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem. We have signed petitions and formed organizations like Black Lives Matter.
We’ve even run for Congress hoping to be part of the solution, rather than sitting on the sidelines, like Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), the only child of a single mother and a father who was in and out of the criminal justice system. We’ve engaged in ways that are visible, peaceful, meaningful and yes, violent.
But it seems little gets the attention of the American Public at large (the white American public) unless there’s an economic impact.
Trump’s Gasoline on the Flames
President Trump on Friday tweeted (in part) “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a phrase that was used historically by Miami’s Police Chief Walter Headley, and by presidential candidate and segregationist George Wallace in 1967 and 1968, respectively, in response to civil unrest by blacks demanding civil rights. Inevitably, when protests lead to riots and looting, the “crack down” that ensues is all the more forceful because property and economic loss are at the forefront of the law enforcement response.
But what about black human lives?
If we are indeed in the land of the free and the home of the brave, and if we are all as the Constitution declares “created equal” and endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, why then is it that 155 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, ending slavery, does it still feel like black Americans remain in bondage? Denied basic dignity, human rights, ignored when pleading for air to breathe during an arrest, and asphyxiated to death in broad daylight on a public street before witnesses and as three other police officers look on.
Black Americans have the right to be outraged by that. All Americans have the right to be outraged. The “good white people” of America also must be enraged. But are they? You know, the ones who are the first to say “but I’m not racist.” What are they doing? Are they speaking up? Are they speaking out?
If an animal were treated the way the police treated George Floyd, there would likely have been immediate outcry and demands for a swift arrest.
Instead, it took four days for Officer Derek Chauvin to be arrested for the murder of George Floyd. We can assume that after the arrest, at some point, there will be a public trial and a verdict.
But we likely already know the outcome: A slap on the wrist, if that, or a complete exoneration for what is undeniably an execution. Not guilty will likely be the verdict. We’ve seen this play out before.
And that is why Minneapolis is burning.
Black Americans are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Tired of being exterminated and denied basic human rights.
Something has to change.