The medical experts who testified in the Derek Chauvin trial have established that George Floyd had stopped breathing and lost his pulse long before Chauvin removed his knee from his neck. It turns out that Floyd was dead in about five minutes but Chauvin kept his knee on his neck for a total of nine and a half minutes. In other words, Chauvin claims it was necessary that he continue to subdue a dead person. There’s some consolation in knowing George Floyd didn’t suffer the entire time he was held down, but otherwise the revelation makes things even worse.
Should taxpayers really have to invest in training police officers not to subdue a suspect after they’re dead, never mind after they’ve stopped resisting arrest? Was Floyd not dead enough to satisfy the sadism of those four police officers, two of whom helped Chauvin hold him down while the third stood guard and fended off the onlookers? How dead would he have to be before they were satisfied his blackness no longer posed a threat? How long does the Black man have to be held down to fulfill the white man’s insatiable need?
In some ways I find the fourth officer who stood guard the most disturbing of the bunch. His purpose was so obviously to make sure nothing stopped the ritualized killing of a Black man, a ritualized murder all too similar to the lynchings that were carried out in the Jim Crow South for over 100 years. And all the while we could see Chauvin’s cold, haunting stare, that of a person consumed by his evil purpose. How much hatred do people like those four police officers possess for the Black race? How many of our fellow citizens carry the same poisonous affliction in their heart?
We Can’t Deny the Racial Hatred that Killed George Floyd.
We can take some solace in knowing that the other three officers will also stand trial for George Floyd’s killing, but we can’t erase those terrible images from our minds. Despite everything the defense team will undoubtedly claim, all the ridiculous contentions that something other than a knee to the neck was responsible for George Floyd’s death, we all know what we saw—confirmation that racial hatred of that sort still exists in America and cannot be denied, just as the white supremacist violence on display at the U.S. Capitol January 6th cannot be excused away, as some right-wing Republicans are now trying to do.
Even if the police officers who killed George Floyd are punished to the full extent of the law—convicted of 2nd and 3rd degree murder rather than just manslaughter—we cannot pretend the gruesome display of ritualized murder didn’t happen, that it isn’t happening far more often than we would like to believe, and that it won’t happen again unless we acknowledge it and confront it head on. While it’s true that bad cops need to be purged and police training improved, that won’t eliminate the hatred that motivated George Floyd’s killing, the hatred that was reflected in Derek Chauvin’s cold stare as the choked the life out of his victim and didn’t let up until well after the grisly deed was done.