By Drew Stevens (@hismindonpaper)
In the amount of time it would take you to properly wash your hands twenty-one times over, George Floyd, handcuffed and face down, begged for his neck to be unpinned from the pavement of a Minneapolis street as his life slowly left him.
For several minutes Floyd pleaded for mercy from one Minneapolis police officer, who for some reason could not lift his damned knee from Floyd’s neck as it strategically cut off air and left the man gasping and crying for help.
Bystanders stood helpless providing their best assistance in making sure the entire tragic miscarriage of justice was filmed for what it was, uncut and unblinking. With more agency than those bystanders, three cops stood within earshot of Floyd’s cries for help and did nothing as they prioritized responding to a forgery tied to the Houston transplant.
After nothing more than an instruction to “relax” was offered in response, Floyd eventually lie motionless, per eye-witness accounts, and died late Monday at a nearby medical center. The four officers have since been terminated The most aggressive, the one who directly caused Floyd’s transition to the afterlife — Derek Chauvin — was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter, lesser charges are expected to be levied against the other officers.
What remained in the aftermath of the brutal actions against Floyd is further evidence of systemic police brutality against Black Americans, who are killed by police more than twice the rate of white Americans according to the Washington Post Fatal Force Database. This, despite making up less than 13 percent of the population. And that only accounts for fatal shootings that have been reported via various news outlets, social media posts and/or police departments themselves.
Those statistics, and the reality of them possibly painting a still-incomplete picture of the disproportionate rate by which Black Americans are killed by police, are frightening. What is more alarming still is how desensitized I have become, not to the victims but, to the extreme measures of force used against them.
How can we learn to trust, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the very people who, on countless occasion, violated the basic human rights of the citizens they swore to protect?
How can we prevent another four-year-old child from living with the nightmare of her mother’s 32-year-old, unarmed, Black boyfriend being shot five times at close range while she sat in the backseat during a traffic stop (Philando Castile)? Or another 43-year-old black man from being strangled to death after an attempted arrest over the sale of loose cigarettes (Eric Garner)? Or another 25-year-old black man from suffering fatal injuries after being improperly secured in the back of a police van (Freddy Gray) Or another 17-year-old black male from being shot by a cop who emptied, reloaded, then emptied again the maximum capacity of a 9mm semi-automatic firearm (Laquan McDonald)?
How can we feel secure in the justice system when the above deaths resulted in a combined sentence of just 81 months behind bars for the perpetrators? How do we mend the wounds of invalidation inflicted by the media in its inexplicable tendency to divulge a victim’s background in the immediate aftermath of these wicked acts as justification of the results?
If protests, silent or otherwise, on bended knee on a football field or by storming Capitol Hill, have yet to yield the tangible results for which they were created, then what will?
How can we reverse a trend that is, by-and-large, centuries in the making?
It would be naive to think Amy Cooper was not playing to the long-standing societal notions and stereotypical archetype some people have of Black Americans — and Black men in particular — in her shameful stunt in Central Park. Had Christian Cooper not been quick-witted enough to pull his cell phone out of his pocket, her absurd theatrics could have resulted in a much worse outcome than her loss of employment and K-9 counterpart.
So, in that environment, how can we prevent the death of another 46-year-old black man who had his neck forcibly pressed against the pavement for the same amount of time it took you to read this column?
Drew Stevens is a writer based in Chicago