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Est. April 5, 2002
Mar 25, 2021 - Issue 858
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Violence was official as well as individual… The torturers and punishments of civil… justice customarily cut off hands and ears, racked, burned, flayed, and pulled apart… people’s bodies… They passed corpses hanging on the gibbet and decapitated heads and… quartered bodies impaled on stakes on the city walls… Accustomed in their own lives to… physical hardship and injury, medieval men and women were not necessarily repelled by… the spectacle of pain, but rather enjoyed it.

- Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

Few in this world wouldn’t know what happened to George Floyd, a Black man, who was a resident of Minneapolis on the fateful day he left a grocery store and encounter a white police officer, Derek Chauvin. To my knowledge, there are three videos of what happened, but one, the third one, shows Floyd’s neck under Chauvin’s knee for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. This video went viral. Not only did residents in Minneapolis protest but the world marched to denounce violence, unnecessary and cold violence.

It’s May 25, 2020, in the United States.

If you stumbled upon this video, you’d ask yourself what did this man George Floyd do to be so brutalized before all the world? Did he separate babies and young children from their parents? Did he send another country weapons of mass destruction to destroy the livelihood of whole villages of people in Yemen? Maybe he thought that American workers shouldn’t make at least 15 dollars an hour. Maybe he just couldn’t see the necessity for equality and came charging out of the store denouncing voters’ rights for people who look like him. Who in his community needs such rights?

But none of this was the case. A store clerk thought maybe Floyd was passing a $20 counterfeit. Maybe?

Chauvin focused his attention on Floyd.

So much has happened since. But you don’t forget.

They are going to kill me.”

Floyd is handcuffed and face down. But we see him, face pressed on the ground. There’s the white police officer, massive, knee on Floyd’s neck, hands in his pocket, comfortably looking at the camera while killing George Floyd.

And the state is wondering where in the world will they pull a jury in the Chauvin trial, a jury, a group of people who haven’t viewed the video or discussed the killing. For most humans with a heart, the eight-minute, forty-six-second video is a mini horror film. Someone, not an actor, is dying right before their eyes. Maybe many of those who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, would have cheered Chauvin on. But most Americans were horrified.

Jacob Blake is shot seven times by Kenosha Police officer Rusten Sheskey on August 23, 2020. Blake managed to survive the assault but remains paralyzed. And was Sheskey charged with seriously injury Blake, a Black man? This is America, where democracy may have its proponents, but it also has its enemies.

In the year of COVID-19, Americans began reading the headlines and the stats. More Blacks, Latinx, and other populations of color were prone to succumbing to the virus. In the early days of the virus lockdown, I remember living in a senior complex where the blood-hair, thirty- or forty-something manager proudly announced she didn’t have to wear a mask! Oh, no! More and more white Americans not only announced their resistance to mask mandates but some also declared the COVID virus a hoax. I heard this year on a Kenosha radio show that no one was dying from it!

Because no one was dying from it, because those disproportionately dying from it were Black American!

That’s how the covert narrative works in America. I say covert, but actually, the spewing of raw hatred and indifference toward whole segments of the population, segments historically enslaved, tortured, terrorized, marginalized, and disenfranchised, has once again become the way of doing business for a new crop of politicians such as Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, or propagandists such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.

Or for law enforcement officers such as Derek Chauvin…

What must it feel like to realize that all that violence once established for a privileged race and class of Americans is in danger of coming undone?

You need to kneel on someone’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds to feel the restoration of that good ole’ violence. To feel empowered by that violence once again!

And now Derek Chauvin sits in court. His lawyers will present his case before a jury of Americans. And in this culture, where violence of all forms is the norm, another will be committed. Chauvin will return to his “freedoms” at the end of the day.

How could you not form an opinion about this case of murder if you see any part of the video? What if George Floyd had been your son, father, husband, brother, uncle?

But America, despite all it’s seen and learned last year and this year on January 6th, about itself and the way it treats a good segment of its people, won’t reach out emphatically toward Black America. I’d like to be surprised for once, but I’m not holding my breath.

George Floyd should be here. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Andre Hill - they all should be here. They should be living their lives, watching their behavior in order to maintain a healthy distance from COVID-19 for themselves and their families. They should be celebrating the success of the vaccines and deciding how best to return their children, nieces, nephews back to the classroom. They should be anticipating the extension of unemployment benefits.

George Floyd and so many Black Americans we’ve lost to state and vigilante violence should be alive and well, but for the worship of hate and violence in American culture. It’s not an accident that in America, while Blacks have been dying from COVID-19 and police violence, the state officials have been devising policies to disenfranchise this same population.

If it feels familiar, it is because it’s America’s response to when Black people exercise their rights and proclaim freedom from the tyranny of violence. We get a knee on our collective necks!

It’s not hard to guess what needs to be dismantled - and the sooner the better! Editorial Board member and Columnist, Dr. Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels and BC.

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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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