This is why they kneel.
That’s obvious to most sane people possessed of a soul and any sense of human decency, but some of us are more outraged by a professional athlete’s benign exercise of First Amendment rights than the murder of an American citizen at the hands of “peace officers” who swore an oath to serve and protect all Americans, regardless of race.
George Floyd was unarmed, handcuffed, utterly helpless and black when Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer mashed his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight-plus minutes as he begged for his life, unable to breathe. Three accomplices with badges, — identified as officers Thomas K. Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng.– did nothing to stop Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly three minutes after Floyd lost consciousness.
Floyd died. The officers went home to their families while his body went to the morgue. The four officers involved were fired, but it took four days for any of them to be charged.
This looked like first-degree murder. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Both are easier charges to prosecute. Juries are loath to convict cops, and intent is extremely hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Floyd is just as dead, regardless of the charges.
All of the officers involved deserve due process. So do the survivors of George Floyd and every American who doesn’t want to live in a country where fellow citizens can be killed for using a fake $20 bill, selling loose cigarettes or jogging in a white neighborhood while black or brown-skinned.
George Floyd is dead because he was born black. His skin color made his life matter less long before Chauvin killed him in front of the world . Now, cities across the nation and around the world are roiled by mass gatherings of protesters, police and bad actors on the far right and far left in the middle of an infectious disease pandemic.
The situation is historically ugly, dangerous and explosive, so naturally Our Alleged President cowers in a White House bunker tweeting gasoline on the fire. Trump isn’t happy to simply be AWOL. He wants to play Arsonist-in-Chief, too.
Thankfully, we can turn to the predecessor Trump so obsessively envies. In an essay posted at Medium.com, President Obama eloquently sizes up the situation and provides solid, specific guidance on what to do next. Trump wouldn’t bother to read it, and couldn’t write a word of it. Read it here.
President Obama writes:
“First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.
“On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause. I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it.
“If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.”
That’s what leadership looks like. Obama’s message reveals the seriousness, skill and empathy required for the presidency and highlights the ignorance, incompetence and irrelevance of the cowardly fool tweeting from his bunker.
I’ll have more to say about this in my Wednesday column, which is for subscribers . Get a subscription here. Digital monthly subscriptions are $4.95. For pennies a day, you get the award-winning local journalism that keeps a community informed, entertained and inspired to action.
The Times-Tribune is still here, and so are you. We will get through this together, one day at a time. Hang in there, hunker down and wash your hands. Don’t go out unless you must, and wear a mask around other people. Be part of the solution.