It is hard to escape the conclusion that Officer Derek Chauvin was trying to deliberately strangle George Floyd. He had to know what he was doing, especially after the man on the ground pleaded with him by saying through his strangulation “I can’t breathe”. Chauvin kept maximum pressure on the windpipe for 8 minutes 40 seconds when the human organism cannot sustain life deprived of oxygen for more than four minutes. So what was it that provoked Chauvin to murder? He apparently had a history of excessive force and violence against suspects but on this occasion he seemed to be possessed by a murderous intent. Of a black man. When is the last time a white suspect or perpetrator was deliberately strangled to death because this murder of George Floyd had to have been committed with deliberate intent.
The whole event was captured live on video and broadcast to the world. Not to put too fine a point on it the incident put America in a rather bad light in the eyes of the world, undoubtedly the reason that Chauvin and his enablers, the three other cops standing around him watching him commit deliberate murder, were arrested, Chauvin being charged with second-degree murder. Lest the above-mentioned international “bad light” for America not be taken seriously all one has to do is turn on to the news stations and watch massive demonstrations involving hundreds, even thousands of people, erupting spontaneously in the major cities of the world. George Floyd and Derek Chauvin are now names on the lips of people everywhere and justice for George Floyd cries out everywhere. What is striking about the police strangling of George Floyd is that it has happened to untold numbers of black men ever since the end of the American Civil War in 1865. In the century following the so-called “emancipation” of black people from slavery, lynchings of those same “emancipated” people in the American South became a routine all over the region, usually without any provocation whatsoever. Why the outrage over George Floyd today? Perhaps because the deliberate strangulation of a man who had committed no crime by Officer Chauvin was videotaped in real time and viewed over the entire world in a way that had never happened before. It brought back into focus a murderous, racially-motivated police assault that many assumed had disappeared from America permanently. The authorities, forced to arrest one of their own, knew that there was no glossing over or ignoring this police murder. Chauvin was no longer a police officer, he was simply a homicidal “perp”.
Will any lessons be learned by those in power, especially those accustomed to treating black people like animals to be hunted? Doubtful, very doubtful. These patterns of behavior toward black people specifically and people of color generally are too deeply ingrained in white people as a whole ever since 1619 (we won’t even talk about the historical plight of the American Indian). We can all agree that the vast majority of white people would never dream of acting like Chauvin but within the “herd” of white people the willingness and mentality to maim, wound, and kill black people circulates as a sub-terranean current and erupts in unexpected fashion often against black people like Arberry and Chauvin who are minding their own business, going about their daily lives with no thought that mortal disaster is about to descend upon them. And Malcolm used to say it doesn’t matter if, as a black person, you are doctor, attorney, professor, preacher, or president you are at mortal risk.
The solution? Mass, disciplined, committed organization for people of African descent with common goals spelled out and enacted. Especially the goal of protecting ourselves not only for the moment but for far into the indefinite future. We weren’t brought here in the hellish holes of the slave ships to face our “final solution”. Using another cliché we are not meant to go “gently into that good night”. We have done enough dying in America and for America.