The deadly relationship between Blacks and police that led to the murder of George Floyd continue to stifle many in the U.S
On that truly Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, Memorial Day, it was easy for Paul Chauvin or whatever his name is, to press his knees at the nape of George Floyd’s neck until he snuffed the life out of him. In the eight or nine minutes that it took for the public execution of Floyd, on the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota, by Chauvin and his three partners in blue, in the back of their minds was the fact that the 46-year-old was just another Black man and this is how we treat them.
They knew that the scene in which they were involved, had played itself out on so many occasions across the U.S. where the abuse and brutality of Blacks, other minorities and poor people are par for the course and have become almost routine in policing in the U.S.
But something about the murder of George Floyd touched the soul of America and maybe the world in a manner unseen of late.
The reactions it has triggered and continues to trigger, if played correctly might just be the catalyst that finally open the eyes of those who have been blind to the troubling relations between Blacks and the police.
The days of protest that joined people of all races, creed and class; the united response from politicians from far and wide even here in Quebec, from celebrities and even from sectors of law enforcement surprised even the most die-hard social activists, many of whom fully expected to march and protests then return home and wait for the next police killing.
Now, even the most pessimistic are watching with wonder as massive chunks of the American population appear ready to listen to the cry for changes in the way Blacks are policed and treated in the country’s justice system.
But many know that it’s not going to be easy. The roots of injustice towards Blacks run deep in America.
Ever since the first shipload of Africans landed on its shores around 1619, generations Blacks, slaves and freed men have been victims of abuse and brutality at the hands of the police and other security forces.
From Day One and continuing over 400 years, the so-called guardians of the state maintained depraved authority and power to use any means necessary, usually violence to stifle the aspirations of Blacks men, women and children.
So, when Blacks aspired for freedom from servitude, the forces were there to track them down, beat them and kill them if need be; when Blacks aspired for civil rights, there they were again, with dogs and horses keeping the former slaves at bay.
And so it is right up to these days of COVID-19, when even the most arbitrary interaction between Blacks and law enforcement in the U.S can be fatal, regardless of circumstance, age or gender of those involved.
As evident in November 2014 with 12 year-old Tamir Rice playing stick-‘em-up in a park with a toy gun, was summarily killed by an investigating police officer.
The same fate befell teenagers Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 at the hands of a police wanna-be, as well as teenagers Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Laquan McDonald in Chicago, all victims of trigger-happy cops.
Remember also the unfortunate circumstance of young Botham Jean, chilling at home in his apartment in Dallas when in walks a police officer who “thought” it was her apartment and he was a burglar. She emptied her gun on him.
There’s also the chilling case of 23-year-old Guinean immigrant, Amadou Diallo who was shot and killed by four plain clothed offices in 1999. They would later claim to have mistaken him for a rape suspect they were charged with 2nd degree murder but like the rest of them they were acquitted.
Just as unfortunate was Philando Castille, who also received several bullets while on his way home from work with his girlfriend and her child in the car following a routine traffic stop.
Not forgetting Breonna Taylor, who two months ago was asleep with her boyfriend when three officers entered her apartment in Louisville, Ky, in the dead of the night. She was shot at least eight times.
They are just a few of the close to 300 Blacks, killed by police every year, accounting for about 25% of fatalities at the hands of cops.
In the USA it never took much for a Black person to be killed by the police.
Such is the volatility of the relationship between the two groups that one group of researcher were able to determine that that “roughly 1-in-1,000 Black boys and men will be killed by police in their lifetime. For white boys and men, the rate is 39 out of 100,000.”
Even more troubling than those projections, is the fact that this systemic annihilation of Blacks has never bothered the USA, much.
Certainly there has never been much in the way of accountability.
Here and there, there might be an attempt to bring an officer in front of the courts to answer for his action but as determined, the justice system offers police impunity in their task of keeping Blacks corralled and mired in their state of hopelessness.
The onus then, has always been on the Black community to react, as they do ever so often when they can’t take it anymore.
In 1992, when the world watched in horror as four officers were filmed beating the living-daylights out of Rodney King following a traffic incident. When they were acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury on April 30, rage in the community boiled over and Los Angeles erupted in protest and fire.
Blacks made their point but nothing changed expect for the fact that 63 people were killed and close to 2,500 were injured and thousands arrested.
Sadly, the Rodney King incident has been a familiar reality for Blacks over the decades: police brutality and murder of Blacks… protests sometimes riots and chaos.
Remember the Watts riots in August, 1965, which was triggered by a minor traffic incident and police brutality. It left 34 dead, thousands injured and tens of millions of dollars’ worth of property damage.
In Newark, July 1967, following the merciless beating of a Black taxi-driver by police. The riots that left 25 people dead and close to 2000 injured.
In every instance these acts of resistance and defiance by the Black community represented a call to authorities to release the pressure that the police and other ‘so-called’ protective exerted on people of color in the US.
That call has never been answered and change never came.
And that’s mostly because the 41 million or so Blacks who make up about 14 per cent of the American population have never been able to mobilize into a cohesive economic or political force to be able to bring about the much needed change for the collective.
Not to say that they haven’t made strides over the decades under the most challenging circumstances.
In fact, Blacks have elevated to the highest rungs of power in business and industry (look closely and you can find four Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies: Marvin Ellison at Lowe’s , Kenneth Frazier at Merck, Roger Ferguson at TIAA, and Jide Zeitlin at Tapestry.)
They have also made big strides in politics over the decades, include one that made it all the way to the White House. Currently there are 52 black representatives in Congress including two senators.
Their representation at the highest level of sports, entertainment and the arts is well documented and a few of them stand on the pinnacle of wealth among the elite group of billionaires in the US.
However as wealthy and powerful as some may be, no Black person is fully immune to the wrath of the U.S police and justice system in whose eyes they will always be Black.
All because Blacks have never taken their place fully in a society that just judges these individuals based on perceptions of their community.
Blacks are still among the poorest groups in the country with a median household income that fluctuates between $15,000 to $17,000.
They are over-represented among high-school dropouts and massively so among the over one million men and women in prison.
So in order for proper growth and development and subsequently respect to come, it must be preceded by dramatic changes to the current reality, that keeps Blacks who have done more than their fair share in building the U.S.A. from sharing in abundances of the country.
But that’s for down the road.
For now, with Chauvin and his cohorts arrested and charged with second degree murder ( elevated from the unheard, of third-degree murder) and manslaughter and aiding and abetting those crimes… the good people of America have their eyes set on justice for George Floyd.