George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin one year ago today. Floyd didn’t ask to be a movement martyr and hero. He wanted to live. His life was callously snuffed out by a police officer who ignored his cries for help. Chauvin’s colleagues were cowed by the chain of command and didn’t stop it. What stopped was George Floyd’s life.
One year later there are signs of progress as well as backsliding. Change never comes all at once. It takes patience and persistence. Some people possess those qualities, others do not.
Obviously, Black folks have no choice but to persist. It’s their lives that are threatened by police stops. Mine is not as long as I keep my sharp tongue sheathed. George Floyd tried politeness with his murderer. It did not work.
The randomness of police violence is one thing that makes it so frightening. Some people with power will always abuse it. It’s the dark side of human nature.
On the legal front, in some jurisdictions there are signs of change in how police violence is prosecuted. In other jurisdictions, they continue to back the police no matter how outrageous the misconduct. Change is never easy, nothing worthwhile in life ever is.
I made a mistake yesterday and spent too much time on Twitter before the verdict. The amateur lawyers and jurors were doing their thing, insisting that Derek Chauvin would be acquitted because that’s how it’s always gone. Each criminal case is different, a discrete and insular universe of its own. Precedents are for appellate courts; trial courts are all about verdicts. Each case stands alone.
That’s true in reverse as well. There will be times that the criminal justice system will fail; sometimes spectacularly. Few cases have such overwhelming evidence as the Chauvin trial. It’s easy to give in to despair and cynicism when the system fails. Repeat after me: Change is never easy, nothing worthwhile in life ever is.
I’d like to recommend a couple of articles about the state of the Black Lives Matter movement. First, Michael Harriot at The Root: It Turns Out, All Those ‘Woke’ White Allies Were Lying. He’s right about the flurry of corporate support. That was bound to be ephemeral. Corporate America follows the money. They were lying but most of the “woke white allies” were not. They lacked persistence and attention span. Repeat after me: Change is never easy, nothing worthwhile in life ever is.
Second, Imani Perry at The Cut: Stop Hustling Black Death. Perry profiles Samaria Rice who prefers to be thought of as Tamir’s mother, not a “mother of the movement.” It’s a scathing reminder that individual lives have been devastated by police violence. It’s not an abstraction to Ms. Rice. She lost her baby to police violence and has no patience with those “who make a living hustling Black death.”
Harriot and Perry’s articles have wildly different perspectives on the state of the #BLM movement one year after George Floyd’s death. What they have in common is anger. I cannot blame them. All I can do is empathize with Black Americans. I cannot walk in their shoes; I can only feel their pain.
“Wokeness” is a fad. I’m immediately suspicious of anyone who calls themselves “woke.” I call them the Hipster Twitter Left instead. They’re committed as long as it isn’t too hard or doesn’t require too much of their time. It’s also called human nature; some people are trend hoppers in search of the next big thing. So it goes.
It’s unclear what George Floyd’s death will mean in the long run. I think he’s destined to be the Emmett Till of his generation. But what George Floyd really wanted was to live. That beats the hell out of martyrdom any day.
Repeat after me: Change is never easy, nothing worthwhile in life ever is.
The last word goes to Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions: