Unfathomable. Incomprehensible. Unimaginable.
Although real, those words don’t adequately capture the emotions I experienced when watching the murder of George Floyd. Even as I write this, the sense of outrage is palpable. The notion that one man can be so void of humanness, of compassion, of basic decency is surreal to me. Typically, violence happens as a result of hate-provoked impulses and unbridled rage, often from those with mental instabilities and long-held fury. Rarely, however, do we see what we saw on Monday, May 25. That is, a man on full display purposefully, intentionally and deliberately killing another man who had no means by which he could either defend himself or stop what was happening to him. Three other police officers could have but George Floyd couldn’t. What we saw was cold-blooded murder … at the hands of a rogue police officer and his equally depraved pals. If up to me, all four would receive the full weight of justice … and then some.
I’ve thought a lot this week about what I could share with you that’s any different than what other folks have had to say. Opinions in times like these run the gamut – some meant to vent anger, some meant to taunt, some meant to express despair and some intended to inspire. As raw as it might be, I simply want to share my thoughts without any pre-determined result in mind other than to move us closer to becoming a purer society. Speaking of society, among the plethora of challenges we face in this country is the paradox of a culture that has obliterated its behavioral boundaries so much so that anything goes but is then constantly shocked at the moral decadence caused by it. It’s a bit analogous to being surprised when we don’t put gas in the car and it stops running. The cause and effect of a wayward society is playing out before our very eyes and, in what is a pervasive denial, we seem continually stunned at the results.
George Floyd wasn’t murdered by police officers with stellar records who acted on impulse in a life or death scenario. Mr. Floyd, handcuffed and pleading for mercy, wasn’t threatening, he wasn’t belligerent and he wasn’t attempting to elude. He wanted air and his “mama.” Preventing Mr. Floyd from both was Derek Chauvin, the officer in the now infamous video. Chauvin, 44, had been an officer in the Minneapolis Police Department since 2001. In those 19 years, Chauvin had 18 complaints on his official record, two of which ended in discipline from the department, including official letters of reprimand. He had also been involved in three police shootings, one of which was fatal. Yet, Chauvin remained on the force and an active police officer. Given such a record, it seems to me no one in command in the MPD should be surprised at what Chauvin did. Instead, those who enabled Chauvin to remain a police officer should also be held responsible for the death of George Floyd. Chauvin was a ticking time bomb and the higher-ups in the MPD not only knew it, they allowed the fuse to burn. That’s not leadership, that’s pathetic. If there is any need for a short rein when it comes to unacceptable behaviors, it’s in a police department. That no one saw the need to purge the MPD of a guy like Chauvin is, if you ask me, inexcusable at best and criminal at worst. Every Derek Chauvin in this country should be kicked out of every police department in this country … today.
Like everyone with whom I have a personal relationship, another person’s skin color has never mattered to me. The manifestation of how extraneous that is in my life is the honor I’ve had for nearly 36 years now to be the dad of a full-blooded, native American Indian son. Born into the Menominee Indian Tribe of northern Wisconsin, Shane has always looked different than me. As my son, he’s the apple that didn’t fall far from the tree but he doesn’t look like he’s mine. Born to a young, single, troubled mother who had just moved from Wisconsin where the Menominee Indians live to Birmingham, Alabama, Shane was a beautiful gift. He still is. Obvious is the gift of him being my son but there are other mini-gifts, if you will, that came with Shane. One of the most notable is that Shane reinforced in me the truth that the differences in people should be celebrated, not used as means of judgment. Shane also taught me that the color of skin should be a distinction without a difference. Sadly, in this country and around the world, it isn’t but it should. Jesus, after all, was Middle Eastern and looked it. It’s rhetorical, yes, but have we become so lost in the belief that the color of skin should determine our view of another person? Are we at a point in society where the most compassionate, giving, loving man who ever walked the earth would be rejected because of his skin color? Or that children would be left as orphans for the same reason? Or that an innocent man in Minneapolis would be murdered because of his race?
In those 8 minutes and 46 seconds, what would you have done? What would I have done? If the answer is not much for fear the same rogue cops would have turned on me then I am part of the problem. We are either all-in loving and caring for each other or we are among those who believe some people on this earth are expendable, especially those with a different ethnicity. If, on the other hand, you and I know that we would have attempted to save George Floyd in those nearly nine minutes then today is the day we actively do something to make sure it never happens again. Opinion columns and social posts are useful venues but if we don’t take steps to mend the brokenness among us then it’s all a bunch of rhetoric and that’s it. Nothing will change.
Yes, it’s unfathomable that three men supposedly committed to keeping people safe would stand by as the worst of humanity snuffed the life out of a man only feet away from them. Yes, it’s incomprehensible that a police department would put a badge and gun in the hands of a cop knowing full-well he had no business having either and yes, it would be unimaginable that Derek Chauvin would ever see the light of day again. Above it all is the collective yes to you and me spending the balance of our lives in pursuit of a day when America becomes, as Martin Luther King Jr. said so well, a nation where people are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
God help us become that nation.
Scott Brooks is the Publisher of the Waxahachie Sun and may be reached at 972-316-7712 or email@example.com.