It's Karen's Turn column: Calls of ‘racist’ don’t help
The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
The first time I saw the video of George Floyd dying beneath a police officer’s knee, a torch flamed up inside me.
That was enough! That was cold-blooded, light-of-day murder, and astounding that a sworn police officer would snuff the light out of a human being in front of witnesses.
It had not been long since I had jogged for justice for Ahmaud Arbery, joining untold numbers of distraught Americans in bringing pressure on local Georgia officials to pursue an investigation into a killing that had been covered up for months. Arbery was only 25 when vigilantes took it upon themselves to decide he was a burglar, surrounded him with vehicles while he was jogging, and shot him. Three men have been charged with felony murder in his death.
The more I thought about George Floyd’s death, though, the more I had doubts about what I had witnessed.
What created the most doubt for me was the ambulance arriving on the scene. Clearly, the officers were waiting for an ambulance. Why? Was something already wrong with George Floyd, and was that the reason he died?
I floated my thoughts on Facebook and a few people agreed but most excoriated me for entertaining such ideas and, riddled with anxiety and self-doubt, I deleted it. Then a torch flamed up for real, and big swathes of Minneapolis went up in flames. For a while, white liberals weren’t sure whether to condemn the violence or to nervously empathize.
Recently I’ve spoken up again when people insist that the only fair outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin is a murder conviction. If that’s the only fair outcome, why have a trial at all? Why not dispense with the jury and bring out the vigilantes? Obviously we have a jury for a reason, and that includes the possibility of exonerating Derek Chauvin. And if they do, or if they find him guilty as hell, that’s the jury’s call and they will have done their jobs.
For speaking my mind, I’ve been called racist and been informed that the entire judicial system is racist.
There’s a reason for those slurs, obviously. George Floyd’s death is not just about George Floyd. It’s not just about Derek Chauvin. It is about America’s painful and sordid past. It’s about the unequal treatment of non-whites and have-nots caught in the judicial system. It’s about non-white people having to work so much harder than white people to get past the hiring manager. It’s about the shifting demographics in the U.S., and the fear that some whites feel about losing majority status. It’s about the politics of the war on drugs, the effort to disqualify Black voters from the ballot box. It's about parental fear that their beloved Black sons could die at the hands of the police. It’s about gaps, and gulfs, and estrangement. It’s about feelings of superiority. It’s about dehumanization.
It’s about a Black cop, Mohamed Noor, getting convicted for the shooting death of a white woman, Justine Ruszczyk.
It’s about the death of Philando Castile with no convictions.
It’s about cops arming themselves against the citizenry with military surplus.
All of this history and current events are hanging on the Derek Chauvin trial.
Defending Chauvin has the implication of defending all the terrible things White America has done to Black America.
We need to recognize, then release, that weight.
One cop is on trial, not the whole system.
Did Chauvin’s actions contribute to George Floyd’s death? That’s for the jury to decide. Personally, it doesn’t look good for Chauvin, but then there is the video of Floyd complaining about not being able to breathe well before the cops took him to the ground.
Calling people racist for debating different ideas and possibilities shuts down communication. We need more communication, not less.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.