Another year and America once again confirms that police brutality and racism are still very much part of the fabric of the ‘land of the free’. Recent cases: Ahmaud Arbery 23/02/2020 out jogging killed in something reminiscent of a lynching by Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael. Amy Cooper 25/05/2020 filmed using familiar tropes of the ‘scared white woman’ and the ‘scary black man’ [Christian Cooper] to her advantage.
In the latest case, (we know about), the death of George Floyd in Minnesota is acutely disturbing. It brings to the fore (once again) a brief global focus on the excessive use of force by police in America on Afro-Americans. More significantly it again raises the stark reality of racism towards blacks. George Floyd’s death-visceral in its disturbing nature resounds clearly with his words “they’re going to kill me”. Derek Chauvin’s calm demeanour only helps to accentuate the fear and powerlessness George Floyd must have felt in his last moments.
Racism against blacks has not been eradicated. No one in their right mind will think so but we certainly hope so. Police brutality against blacks is as barbaric as it ever was. With all the current knowledge perhaps, this barbarism is even worse. Despite prior cases, nothing has been learnt.
Perhaps tellingly in all cases some elements of justice appear to have been swift. Amy Copper was sacked from her investment-banking job with Franklin Templeton. The company informed social media of their decision while adding their own vilification of her abhorrent actions. Ahmaud Arbery- the father and son (as well as another man William Bryan) are facing charges of murder and aggravated assault in June. The officers involved in the murder of George Floyd have all been fired. With The FBI investigating the case, and the public furore from those of all colours, David Chauvin has been arrested. The other officers will hopefully be arrested.
Caution however, the officers’ indictment is not a given. The burden of proof against an officer is notoriously hard to achieve. Further, history shows that in America, overwhelming evidence does not always lead to justice for the victims. We wait and watch.
However, with all this justice going around here at #itchysilk we feel a distinct emptiness. There is a stark and uncomfortable truth. Justice really is not enough. It is like the friend who continually says sorry for the same mistake. Eventually you will become desensitised to their faux sorrow. Justice in America is the same. From the person using the fact a person is black to implicate them in a crime. To shooting a black man out jogging because you thought, he was a criminal. To police brutality. We are increasingly becoming numb to America’s ‘justice’.
Evidently, we as the mass are not privy to the back-stories on these cases. Some of the victims may have been involved in criminal behaviour. However, there must be reasonable force. After all, even in war where the primary aim is to decimate your enemy by any means necessary (in other words kill) there is a code of engagement.
Justice is clearly not enough. The deterrents to such behaviour are not enough. On a yearly basis (with the advent of social media), cases like this enter the public domain. We have the usual cries for justice. The public will be incensed. Celebrities will voice their concerns and support. Social media will be awash with supportive #hashtags. Movements created. The global media will run the story. The families affected will filmed crying mourning their love one’s death. Blogs (like #itchysilk) will write an opinion voicing mostly what we all feel. Protests will be organised. In some cases, justice will be served. In some cases, justice takes time. In some cases, there is no justice. The following year another story will come to light. We can all run the same macabre, disturbing, and futile Groundhog Day
It is probably too easy to attribute these two cases to Trumpism and its fervour for America first and by default (it seems) whites first. After all, it is clear. The negative treatment of blacks is entrenched in the American psyche/society by those of all colours (including blacks). Any change needs to be cultural. From a change in the culture of the police with its institutional racism and its disproportionate use of violence against blacks. To a change of white people’s perception of blacks. To a change in how blacks perceive their own blackness. As with any cultural change, it takes time and as unsettling as it is, more victims.
With all the above said we return to the fact that in the immediate justice is not enough. Indeed, in the case of George Floyd America may find that justice will not be enough for the incensed masses. This case is not any worse than previous cases. It is not possible to categorically attribute George Floyd’s death to Trumpism but Trumpism and this current case creates fertile ground for justice’s relative: Revenge. Revenge follows no complicated code of conduct or laws. Revenge is reductive: An eye for an eye.
Of course, revenge is not the answer but for some it is the most appropriate answer. In the face of continuous racism, continuous dis-advantage (in all facets), repeats of the same tired washed out story, humans will eventually reach breaking point. At some point it is not about a logical response to something as fundamentally wrong as this. This deep seated anger will need to be vented. Unfortunately, at breaking point, all options (including violence) become viable. That juncture opens the door for more extreme reactions and extreme individuals.