Normally, I write mostly about stories that tend to escape national headlines but this story is so far-reaching I don’t feel like I could ignore it.
By now, you should all know who George Floyd is. He was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck while George said he couldn’t breathe. Autopsy reports state George died from asphyxiation. Chauvin has been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department and has been arrested for Floyd’s murder.
For those who may not know, George Floyd was arrested on suspicion of paying for something with a counterfeit $20 bill. That’s not exactly a lethal force-worthy crime. Now I can understand police restraining a suspect who is showing aggression but by most eyewitness accounts Floyd was not being aggressive.
I saw a man on Twitter put it the best. He said that both he and Floyd were arrested for the same offense of allegedly passing a fake $20 bill. The difference between Floyd and himself was that he was white and got a great story to tell out of it while Floyd is dead.
Is racism inherent in our nation’s police departments? I can’t say because I’m white. I’ve gotten out of more tickets than I’ve received. I’ve never been arrested. I’ve never been stopped and frisked.
Some people will defend the police saying that there are only a few bad apples among their ranks that are like Chauvin. I’ve seen a meme going around that sort of addresses this. It’s attributed to Chris Rock and he basically says that police is not one of those jobs that you should have any bad apples in. He went on to say you don’t see airline pilots saying that some of our pilots are bad apples and just like to crash.
Obviously, I’m not the type of person who bashes police for just being the police. They have a thankless task of trying to protect the public and have one of the few jobs where they may not come home one day. However, that does not give them carte blanche to violate people’s civil rights.
I think the problem with a lot of police departments is that they’re a bunch of old-boy networks. Nepotism and cronyism have long been common among police hiring practices. Many of these legacy hires are only hired because they couldn’t cut it anywhere else in the working world. Not to mention that if those getting the jobs for their friends and family are racist, they’ll tend to associate with other racists.
While we’re on the subject of police violence, many police departments across the country didn’t do themselves any favors with this week’s protests. You can’t go on social media without seeing the well-documented instances of unwarranted force and violence against peaceful protesters and people just minding their own business.
Then there are the people who have defended police actions during the protests. What these people don’t seem to understand is that a protester is not necessarily a rioter. A protester is not necessarily a looter. These are the same people who think that all of the problems plaguing the black community would stop if they just stopped ‘acting black’. They’ll never say it out loud but this is what they think. Yet even if the black community did act ‘more white’ they still wouldn’t let black people date their daughters or stop for a black family that’s broken down on the side of the road.
What these people don’t understand is the history of oppression the black community has had to endure in this country since even before the nation’s founding. From the slave trade to the Jim Crow era to the civil rights movement to today, the black community has had to deal with oppression from the whites in power. Too many white folks think racism magically went away in the 80s when Bill Cosby was on TV on Thursday nights.
I know this is pie in the sky thinking but American police departments need to be drastically restructured. Not only do they need to keep cultural differences in mind but they also need to recruit more people of color into their ranks. And while recruiting, they need to recruit people who want to be there for duty and not just a paycheck.