Widespread rioting across the United States in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis underlines deep racial divides, but most commentators again fail to grasp the real failures at the heart of these deaths.
There is no doubt Floyd’s death was tragic. He was arrested on suspicion of trying to pass counterfeit money. He was subdued, handcuffed and incapacitated. A white police officer is seen in the video with his knee on the man’s neck. Floyd is heard saying he can’t breathe.
It is a gruesome scene that is incredibly hard to watch. The viewers see a police officer displaying a callous disregard for the welfare of a man in custody.
Floyd, after all, posed no threat to anyone at that point. His hands were cuffed behind his back. He was laying face down. He was going nowhere.
It likely does not mater the coroner’s report shows Floyd did not die of asphyxiation, but rather from a heart attack, from underlying coronary heart disease and intoxicants.
The coroner’s report is being used by apologists for the police officer’s behavior, but it does not take away from the fact that Floyd died during an arrest.
In other words, it was a preventable death.
Protesters who are enraged by Floyd’s death, however, are also failing to grasp the import of the situation.
They see the racism inherent in the death and that is all.
That racism played a part cannot be disputed. Study after study has shown that while police kill more white people than blacks, a disproportionate number of blacks are killed.
“Recent public discourse has focused on racial disparities in legal intervention deaths. The current study found that, consistent with prior research,3,12,16,17,55 black victims were substantially over-represented relative to the U.S. population, comprising 34% of victims but only 13% of Americans,36,56 and with legal intervention death rates 2.8 times higher than those among whites. Black victims were also more likely to be unarmed than whites or Hispanics, and less likely than whites to have evidence suggesting an immediate threat to LE. Incidents involving black and Hispanic victims were more likely to involve at least one black LE officer, potentially because of greater racial diversity in police departments located in areas with larger minority populations.”
That quotation needs to be reread a few times to grasp its full import. Blacks are indeed more likely to be killed, but those deaths were likely to involve a black officer as well.
There is a perception that blacks pose more of a threat than whites among police regardless of their skin color.
This goes to the heart of the issue. To put down these deaths to racism blinds us to real opportunities to reduce the number of all people dying during arrests.
I suspect, for example, that most people would be surprised to learn that the knee to the neck is actually a sanctioned maneuver.
Many cities have prohibited the maneuver but not in Minneapolis.
All of which begs the question: How is that so little progress has been made in police departments to better deal with suspects during arrests?
In the case of Minneapolis, the mayor is a progressive Democrat, the governor is a progressive Democrat, the attorney general is a progressive Democrat.
Police answer to a police commission which, in turn, answers to a mayor who answers to a governor.
- How is that arrest procedures do not reflect new thinking on restraint?
- How is it that police are not adequately trained to deescalate situations?
- Why are police officers with known issues of brutality still on the force?
In other words, while racism plays a part in these deaths, ultimately it is the lack of accountability from elected leaders, predominately progressive and Democrat and often black as well that is the issue.
Meaningful reform is well within their grasp, but too often they fail to take the necessary steps to effect change.
The result is that when a death such as Floyd’s does occur and people are rightfully angry, that anger expresses itself in riots.
If I were truly cynical, I could easily argue that these elected officials do nothing of consequence to keep the cycle of death/protest/riot/recrimination/election rolling.
No, I’d rather put it all down to stupidity of which there is an overabundance.