The brutal treatment of George Floyd that resulted in death has hit on a chord with far-reaching intensity. The specifics were revealed because Damella Frazier, 17, had the presence of mind to film the almost-unbelievable incident that occurred in Minneapolis on May 25,2020.
In this case, a video is worth more than 1,000 words. There is no escaping the graphic image of George, 46 years old, with his body beneath a police vehicle while police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on George’s throat, refused to move despite George’s plea, “I can’t breathe”.
Were it not for the revelatory, indisputable clarity of image and sound, chances are this murder would have failed to attract attention worldwide. The image cannot be unseen, George’s entreaty cannot be unheard.
The intense, continuing, all-encompassing abhorrence of the nature of the death of George Floyd is unprecedented in recent history. Protests have been held outside the American embassy in London and in Copenhagen . In Italy, senior correspondent Massimo Gaggi observed that the dissidents in the groups in Italy have included a diverse mixture of gender, religion, and nationality, and race.
There is evidence that the value of human life is being re-examined. The customary acceptance of the violation of human rights appears to have run its course. For African Americans the current outrage is fueled by the cumulative nature of abuse levied on their community for generations. For many in this community, very little has been achieved in terms of equality since the forced deportation of slaves from Africa.
In 1968 riots broke out after the murders of first, Martin Luther King, Jr, and then, Robert Kennedy, who understood the necessity of equality. At that time there was considerable outrage about the war in Viet Nam and the enforced draft. The fire burned, but the fervor was not maintained.
More recently, the exposure of the treatment of Eric Gardner, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, among others, has made it impossible to ignore the double standard that is imposed upon people of color. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was, himself, born into slavery, declared: “The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion”.
One writer has pointed out that violence and force have, traditionally, been utilized in the service of liberty. Thus, the American Revolution. This conclusion has proven to be accepted in cases of white rebellion and criticized when employed by individuals of color.
The arrival of the corona virus, worldwide, in 2020 set the stage for a long-delayed explosion. Routines were disrupted. Employment was shut down. The Black community suffered (and continues to sustain) the lion’s share of misfortune. It is not possible to deny that below par education, medical assistance and job opportunity fed the fire of awareness of broken promises and systemic degradation.
The fear of contagion by anyone, not just a scapegoated group, prevailed. Safe distancing, the wearing of masks, the need to stay home, the death toll, pictures of coffins piled in the street, all combined to stir up an understandable paranoia and uncertainty. The pressure cooker of life exploded at the sight of Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s throat. It did not help to learn that George expired at the 6minute point, but was pinned down for an additional 2minutes and 46 seconds as Chauvin refused to adjust his stance and/or turn George Floyd over. The world witnessed an extermination.
The President’s statement.”When the looting starts the shooting starts” was interpreted as inflammatory at a time when large portions of the citizenry of the United States required a message of comfort. Although the President claimed it was a statement and not a threat, it served to intensify the long-held fury of individuals who have experienced unmitigated discrimination.
Protestors who had generally operated within their respective bubbles came to understand that there was strength in numbers and a common cause. Groups such as Indivisible and Move On are working cooperatively. This is one aspect of the current state of dissension that, previously did not exist. The groups that are challenging the status quo are instructing those who wish to join them on how to do so safely.
“Enough”, “this must end” has been reported as a common attitude cross-culturally. Those who are not angry have communicated a weariness and abhorrence of so-called “class” discrimination. Professor Dana Fisher summed up the situation when she wrote: “Anxiety meets moral outrage traveling at the speed of social media.”
The time of hiding intolerance has passed. Remember that a 17-year-old Black girl set the spark that grew into a conflagration. Now that the curtain has been pulled back, it will be difficult to bend the truth and cover up situations of abuse.
Without a mitigating Influence the road between peaceful and violent demonstrations will continue to narrow. There are those who believe that the time has come, not for rebellion, but for revolution. It is possible that this time of isolation and rage will lead to a reconsideration of human rights and values.
The belief that there is not enough to go around , which is prevalent in some circles, is an incorrect paradigm. True, some may be asked to relinquish a portion of material goods. But, what about generosity, empathy, and kindness? These attitudes have been proven to provide a long-lasting contentment that will never be provided by “stuff”.
Yale professor, Laurie Santos, teaches about happiness. Her course has been a blockbuster. Psychology and the good life is the most popular course that has ever been offered at Yale. With a focus on enlightened self-care and gratitude, Professor Santos has left a powerful footprint at this Ivy League bastion of the privileged.
A recent mantra that has emerged is, “Stop the pain!” It is important to take this incantation seriously. If the pain is ignored, it is likely that past compliance with bigotry(which was often the only option) will continue to detonate an all-encompassing call for mutiny. Change is hard, maintaining toxic traditions is dangerous. Things to think about.
Associated Press (05/31/2020 ) “World Alarmed by Violence in U.S.; Thousands March in London. nytimes.com
Fisher, Dana (06/07/2020) “I’m a Professor Who Studies Protests and Activism. Here’s Why the George Floyd Protests Are Different”. businessinsider.com
Jackson, C.J.(06/01/2020) “The Double Standard of the American Riot”. theatlantic.com
Rinsker, J.(06/05/2020) “It’s Been Setting in on Me That This is Like a Cycle” theatlantic.com
Walker, A.(05/29/2020) “George Floyd Death”. Why His Killing in Minnesota Could be The Moment to Bring Lasting Change”. news.sky.com
Wood, G. (05/31/2020) “How do You kneel on a Neck For Nine Minutes?” theatlantic.come