The fact that I must preface this writing by first stating that I am an African-American male is the manifestation of the issue this piece will attempt to convey. Humanity is currently sending people into space, creating advanced AI, augmenting reality, Machine Learning continues to gain ground, and oh, let’s not forget, people are rioting through city streets all over America during a pandemic. But it is for a good cause, right? If that cause pertains to the perpetuation of fanatical idealism — yeah, welcome to 2020 in America. The aforementioned juxtaposition is meant to illustrate the ridiculousness of simplemindedness. For me to believe that because advanced technology exists, most individuals should have a level of intelligence which mirrors the complexities of said technologies, is a logical fallacy. Retrospectively, to believe that the actions of an overzealous cop is somehow reflective of the majority of cops, and in the same token, definitively proves that law-enforcements statistically low and fatal run-ins with people of color are always because of racism is also a misconception.
I can hear the eye rolling already. The simpleton screams, “How dare you! The chaos is warranted. All of this injustice must stop. You are a traitor. You are a character straight out of one of those Harriet Beecher Stowe novel’s I did not read”. And then I reply with, “Cool, I guess I am doing something right then”.
George Floyd’s death has been turned into quite the spectacle because it is the media’s job to make money off of decontextualized information. Pulling on the heart strings of many individuals lacking the wits to think rationally. And we love our age of instant gratification and the dismissal of reading for YouTube, Facebook and a plethora of other social media platforms. It is no wonder why many have a proclivity to act before thinking. One of humanities most important abilities — suspending action for thought, eons of evolution and human ingenuity tossed to the side.
The aim of this writing piece is not to continue to add on to the hysteria taking place within America. But the goal of this prose is to create discourse which is devoid of alogical emotion. The incident which took place on May 25th in Minneapolis is not vindication to destroy neighborhoods, fight with police, or disrespect your fellow American.
The objectivity of the situation:
George Floyd did not require a knee to his neck for what many sources claim went on for over 8 minutes. Since Floyd did not commit a violent crime, it makes it very difficult and basically incomprehensible to defend the force exhibited in the video. This is of course based upon the video clips that were released on the internet, and not based upon the full picture of the situation, which is impossible to perceive. With that said, one thing everyone should be able to admit, no matter which “side” you are on — Floyd did not pose a threat to anyone once he was already handcuffed. Even if he was making it hard for the officers to place him in the police car, or became verbally insolent, a ride to the precinct should have been the outcome. But instead, Officer Chauvin made it his prerogative to go far beyond the call of duty within that particular instance. One of Chauvin’s comrades should have stepped in to deflate the situation, especially once Floyd began to vocalize that he could not breathe. Why not just act as a unified force and place him into the police van? This is a question that I cannot answer, and neither can anyone else except for the officers themselves.
The subjectivity of the situation:
Being able to draw inferences is an important skill. Inferring allows an individual to draw conclusions about a particular situation or event, particularly in the absence of tangible evidence. Pretend you are out for a run, and in the direction you are running toward you begin to hear sirens and the smell of smoke is now in the atmosphere. You decide to run in the opposite direction of the commotion because you have just inferred that there might be a fire taking place somewhere in that direction. This action makes sense because what you perceive is rooted in direct experience. But to infer or make certain judgments about complex situations based off of what you see through a screen, requires a lot more consideration than one might want to accept. Objectively, Officer Chauvin’s actions does not match the crime committed as described by various media outlets. But to say that his actions were based off of racial discrimination is a subjective point-of-view.
The reason is very simple. Only Chauvin knows the real reason why he acted in the way that he did. Observers of the situation cannot telepathically enter Chauvin’s mind; therefore truly knowing his intent is impractical. The media has labeled, and in doing so convinced, and reaffirmed many individuals belief that Chauvin acted out of racial hate. This is not an inference, but an availability bias. Part of being human comes with taking mental shortcuts for survival purposes. The history of racism in America, and the constant coverage of killings pertaining to unarmed Black men by police is the cause of this narrow view of the situation. When we are shown cases such as the one in discussion, a thorough analysis of the situation is suspended because the data that has been uploaded to your brain tells you that probability is in favor of the cause correlating to racism.
Thinking is not burdensome:
What this false math does not tell you is that you might be wrong. Would you say the violent protest that has taken place because of the death of George Floyd is reasonable? Someone living in California, Texas, New York, London, people who were walking down that Minneapolis street when the incident occurred for that matter — are personally affected by this occurrence so much so that it evokes them to riot and loot? All because people of color are at risk of being killed by police officers at an alarming rate? In other words, it seems as if people are protesting and looting because they want to exemplify that these abuses of power are happening far too much, and thus they too and people they know, mainly of color, are at risk.
This line of reasoning would make sense, if it were in fact true. First we must determine what constitutes as, “far too much”. Let us take a look at what the statistics illustrate in relation to the number of Black citizens that have been killed by police.
*Updated on March 31st, 2020 Source Link
According to the data above, since 2017, a total of 698 African-American citizens have been killed by police. At first glance, you might believe that number is very high. But of course you must put everything into perspective. In order to do so, we must determine how many African-Americans are currently living in America.
The Census data tells us that African-Americans make up 13.4% of the population. Since there are roughly 328,239,523 people living in America, this means there are about 37,000,000 African-Americans living in this country. There are single schools throughout the United States which have an African-American student body which far surpasses the total number of Blacks killed by police since 2017. In other words, when put into perspective, this idea that people of color are being hunted down by White America and police officers, at an alarming rate, just is not true. The data actually makes it evident that African-Americans have a very low chance of being killed by Whites and law enforcement.
Since 2017, a total of 1,226 White-Americans were killed by law enforcement, but for some strange reason, this is hardly ever discussed in main stream media. Here comes the simpleton again, ready to tell me that Blacks are disproportionately killed by cops when compared to Whites, which is evidenced in the big gap in population size. To make an assumption and claim that this is because of racism is not only lazy, but extremely dangerous. A simple reason for this could be the fact that Blacks account for only 13.4% of the population, but committed only 101,150 violent crimes less than Whites, according to the US Department of Justice, in 2018. [DOJSource]
This is an appalling statistic when you consider that there are roughly 190,000,000 White-Americans compared to there being only 37,000,000 Black-Americans in this country.
Areas like the South Side of Chicago is an exemplification as to why there is so much policing in predominately poor Black neighborhoods . To pretend that these paradigmatic neighborhoods are often peaceful and low crime, and everyone there sings Kumbaya around a camp fire while the evil White man comes to murder innocent bystanders is a delusional idea.
Since Whites make-up 77.1% of uniformed officers in America, naturally, you will see more Blacks being killed by White cops.
Cops need to be held to the highest standard. We pay taxes in order to employ individuals who vow to protect our communities. With that said, the death of George Floyd occurred in Minneapolis, and the main stream media has put forth this premise that this incident is an exemplification of the lack of accountability within the police force around the United States.
Pretend a teacher from Arkansas decided to show movies the entire year to their class instead of teaching. And a student took a video of the teacher sitting in their chair with their feet up on the desk, while the movie played, and later on the release of this video went viral. Would it make sense that students from other schools, in and out of the state of Arkansas begin to protest and claim that education needs to be fixed now and teachers need to be held accountable? Or, would it be reasonable to say that examples of this sort should be handled on a case to case basis? Meaning, the school community reprimands that teacher since it occurred within that community. And when students from all over the United States view the video, before going out to protest, they first decide if their school environment mirrors what they saw in the video. Would this not be the sensible thing to do? Why perpetuate the actions of one educator, and make a claim that their actions are indicative of the actions of most teachers? We are taught at an early age that generalizations are not advantageous for the growth of society. But yet and still we allow the media to make rash generalizations almost without question.
The news is not informative:
Neil Postman was a communications professor at New York University and founded the institutions media ecology program in the 1970’s. He was best known for his work, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business which was published in 1985. Postman was a critic of television, and how the bias of this medium ultimately has an effect on the messages which it communicates. But a few quotes from one of his less popular work, How To Watch TV News, published in 1992 sums up the issue at hand very well.
“Why are there so few television stories about symphonies that have been composed, novels written, scientific problems solved, and a thousand other creative acts that occur during the course of a month? Were television news to be filled with these events, we would not be frightened. We would, in fact, be inspired, optimistic, cheerful”.
“Moving pictures favor images that change. That is why violence and dynamic destruction find their way onto television so often.”
“But film of an earthquake can be interesting even if the viewer cares nothing about the event itself. Which is only to say, as we noted earlier, that there is another way of participating in the news — as a spectator who desires to be entertained. Actually to see buildings topple is exciting, no matter where the buildings are. The world turns to dust before our eyes.”
“The television screen is smaller than life. It occupies about 15 percent of the viewer’s visual field …. This means that visual changes must be more extreme and more dramatic to be interesting on television. A narrowing of the eyes will not do. A car crash, an earthquake, a burning factory are much better.”
The main stream media can only survive if their viewership is thriving. The more people tune in to be “informed”, the more revenue they receive via advertising companies. Therefore, the content cannot be cut and dry. The information they put forth must be about drama because this is what sells. Reporting on all of the good which takes place around the world would be boring, and again, is not advantageous for the media or the advertisers. Usually, when something positive is spoken about, it is diluted by a plethora of negative news proceeding it. In addition, due to our over the top political climate today, main stream media no longer reports things as they are, but as they want them to be seen. CNN will pander to their political affiliations and liberal audience, and Fox News will do the same for their conservative audience and political agenda. Why so many individuals trust these media outlets which clearly provide them with biased information is almost unfathomable. It is safe to say that true journalism is dead. The violent tribalism currently taking place in America today is largely due in part because people cannot put away their phones, and refuse to turn off their “smart” televisions.
The George Floyd case is an example of how the media can take a situation and cause mass hysteria around the world. And the question of who benefits the most from this is rhetorical.
What is most unfortunate is the fact that on May 25th there were probably countless examples of great acts being committed by police officers and civilians. There were astounding examples of humanity working together, irrespective of race. But we are willing to allow an example of an unfortunate incident dictate the reality in front of us.
I did not know George Floyd personally, therefore I will attempt to avoid making any value judgments. With that said, it is interesting to see what the media chooses to focus on when it comes to how they portray his character to the masses. For the most part, he has been described as Black, unarmed, a father, a Christian and cooperative. The reason why the police was called on him is usually touched upon briefly and certainly is not at the center of the discussion, and rightfully so. Floyd did not commit a violent crime, and as mentioned earlier, he did not deserve to die because he attempted to purchase items from a store using a counterfeit 20 dollar bill. If anything, it is ridiculous that the store owner decided to call the cops because of this. During a pandemic, when emotions are high and uncertainty reigns, something tells you that calling law enforcement for a petty crime makes sense? Why not rip up the counterfeit bill, and simply tell Floyd to leave your establishment? That owner, in my opinion, should feel ashamed of themselves. Not because of George Floyd’s death necessarily, but because just like Officer Chauvin, they too were overzealous and half-witted.
I would suggest those who are interested should read the full report. The report lays out the injuries Floyd suffered at the hands of the officers, as well as some conditions he was suffering from prior to his arrest. According to the examiner, “No injuries of anterior muscles of neck or laryngeal structures” were found. The fact that Floyd did not suffer from a neck injury stemming from Chauvin’s knee is an important detail. Especially since many are under the assumption that Floyd suffered some sort of traumatic neck injury which in return affected his breathing. Floyd not only had an advanced form of heart disease, hypertension and tested positive for COVID-19, he also had various traces of different drugs in his system. This includes fentanyl, methamphetamine and cannabinoids. But oddly enough, many mainstream media outlets and even some “medical experts” claim that Floyd was healthy. There are many people alive right now who may look and feel fine on the surface, but in reality, they are very ill. This explains why seemingly healthy people suddenly die from heart attacks, brain tumors, strokes, aneurysms and etc, and their loved ones are left in a state of awe.
In other words, it seems as if Officer Chauvin’s excessive force acted more like a catalyst which expedited the inevitable. This does not mean Chauvin should be let off the hook. Had he simply forced, with the help of his comrades, Floyd into the police vehicle, this writing piece would not exist. The reason this information is important is because responsibility should go both ways. Meaning, Floyd should not be painted as this angel who had no hand in his own death.
You must consider all of the events leading up to his descent from Earth. Floyd may have survived had he have taken care of his health. The only exception is his COVID-19 diagnosis, as this infection was obviously out of his hands. But since he consumed hard drugs, he clearly weakened his heart, and the stress of the event was too much for him to handle. Also, had he not have tried to pass a counterfeit 20 dollar bill off as being real, the cops would not have been called, and Floyd would be alive today. And again, this does not take the onus off of Officer Chauvin. Although I will never know his true intent, one thing in my opinion is for sure, this man seemed to enjoy what he was doing. The power he had over Floyd took over him and he acted out of cowardice. But to say it was racism, and then to incite this sentiment which has caused great pain and conflict is absolutely ridiculous.
Why should business owners, innocent bystanders, and good cops suffer because two men who made poor choices in their lives happened to cross paths during the most inconvenient time possible? Now race tensions are higher, and now people of color, cops, people on the left, on the right, and etc, now have an even more skewed perception of one another. Many talking heads on television want people to believe that this video needed to be released, and that again, it exemplifies America’s dark history regarding racism. But look at what is happening? Innocent cops are being attacked and murdered , people are arguing on social media, and relationships are being severed due to conflicting opinions regarding this case.
There are many invisible forces which are at work and result in the outcomes we perceive. I believe the head honchos who run these media companies understand many of these situations are a lot more nuanced than they appear. But again, the full picture is impossible to sell.
The folks who are out looting and destroying their own communities should be ashamed of themselves. You are not out there to evoke change in a positive sense. You are following the herd, and your identity has been lost and integrated with the group. It is a game of monkey see, monkey do. The ultimate social media frenzy, only to dissipate once this event becomes redundant. Then the media will make an exorbitant deal out of the next “big” event they decide is politically advantageous.
If you live in another state, or country, this matter is none of your concern. You too are being controlled by information being sent to you through a screen. Let the justice system do its job, and if it does not, then it is warranted to begin knocking on doors and asking questions. But too many began to act, well before more information was released regarding the case. And this has resulted in unnecessary conflict and stupidity.
Those who are protesting peacefully, it is your constitutional right to do so. With that said, I wonder if you have thought about this situation thoroughly enough. Given the statistics, and the complexity of the situation, I highly doubt it. You may be marching peacefully, but again, I would ask for what? What do you want out of our government? What kind of a law will stop human-beings from making mistakes? There will always be “bad” people in this world. Thus, you will always have bad doctors, lawyers, businesses men, politicians, and etc. These positions should be held with high standards, but one must never forget, personal survival will always override what you believe should be done for the group. One may claim they are joining certain sectors because they want to make a difference in the world, but in reality, these human-beings take these jobs for their own personal survival, not yours. And you and I are no different.
This overly emotional, and non-critical culture we have become is detrimental to the growth of America. African-Americans as well as other minority groups have a unique and great opportunity to thrive in this country. By perpetuating these sentiments, the youth will believe they have some sort of target on their back, and will use that as an excuse to not better themselves. There are far too many African-American homes lacking the structure needed in order to push the culture forward. Many cultures do not respect the African-American culture because of what is often put forth by Blacks themselves. Especially in mainstream media and pop-culture. Since African-Americans are only 13.4% of the population, there is hardly any room for error in terms of how as a collective, the culture portrays themselves to others. When you have too many people doing the same thing, it is hard for others to accept that not everyone from that group or culture is the same.
As an African-American male, I have had the opportunity to go to college, earn a masters degree, and find a good job. My close friends, who are also African-American, and Hispanic, have done well for themselves. And none of us come from money. My mother was a single parent and had to raise me on her own. But I had certain values instilled in me at a young age, which allowed me to become who I am today. The simpletons will claim that systemic racism is the cause for the issues African-Americans and other minority groups face today. I advise them to let go of the script. Stop allowing people to feed you non-sensical information which emotionally may feel right, but has so many flaws logically. We are all Americans at the end of the day, and we need to strengthen our culture collectively. Stop seeing each other as Black, White, Brown and Yellow, and as American.
If you believe I am wrong, that is fine. Please tell me why. Let us have a conversation; open my eyes to something you believe I am not seeing. There is no need to be angry, or upset because someone has conflicting ideas from your own. America is the greatest country on Earth because we have the outlet to express what we believe, without persecution. Now are you ready to join the conversation?