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All Lives Matter Or No Lives Matter. There Is No Third Option
Despite the arrests of the officers involved in the killing of George Floyd, the protests catalyzed by Floyd's death continue. Whether the protests continue to devolve into riots, looting, and anarchy remains to be seen, although in New York City at least, where some of the worst violence has taken place, peaceful protest appears to be making somewhat of a comeback.
The rallying cry for both the protests and the riots: "Black Lives Matter", the slogan popularized after a police officer shot and killed a young black man in self defense.
In both the present and the past, the rallying cry is simply the wrong message and the wrong motivation. In both the present and the past, "Black Lives Matter" seeks not to end injustice, but to rationalize it, and to amplify it.
In the past, present, and the future, black lives matter only if all lives matter. If all lives do not matter, then no lives matter. There is no third option.
All Facts Matter
As Daniel Patrick Moynihan so pithily quipped, "You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts." Facts are the basis of all reasoned argument, and whether we like them or not, facts invariably remain factual.
There are some salient facts that must be kept in mind both specifically in the death of George Floyd and in regards to police use of force more generally:
The police were called when the proprietor of Cup Foods reported George Floyd attempted to make a purchase with a counterfeit $20 bill. Regardless of what transpired once the police arrived, the reason they engaged George Floyd was that they were asked to do so.
The police officers, in their reports of the encounter, stated that Floyd appeared intoxicated. The autopsy report by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner showed Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system.
Over the past four years, police have shot and killed approximately twice as many white people as black people. Black people account for approximately one-fifth of people shot to death by police during that time.
In 2016, Tony Timpa, a white male, died in police custody after police officers pinned his neck and shoulders to the ground in a manner not disimilar to the George Floyd incident.
Restraining a prone manacled suspect by pressing down on the neck and shoulders is known to potentially cause difficulty breathing, and Department Of Justice guidelines since 1995 have recommending getting suspects off their stomachs as soon as they are handcuffed.
There are, of course, innumerable other details, but these facts form the core of any analysis of George Floyd's death.
Derek Chauvin Was Wrong
While the video footage of MPD Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd's neck is disturbing, what that footage does not show is any clear intent that Chauvin intended to kill George Floyd. Similarly, we cannot determine with precision the extent to which Chauvin's actions caused Floyd's death. Frustratingly, the autopsy report does not tell us if Floyd's cardiopulmonary arrest began before Chauvin knelt on his neck or arose directly because of it.
However, the extant evidence' lack of detail and precision only makes questionable the particular statutory homicide offense under Minnesota law applicable to Chauvin's actions. The argument that Chauvin committed homicide is compelling just on the video footage alone. The extent to which the homicide is second degree murder, third degree murder, or some form of manslaughter requires additional evidence and is for a jury to sort out at trial, but, based on the video evidences at hand, any claim of innocence by Chauvin would be a most extraordinary claim indeed.
Moreover, a number of other police agencies around the country have expressed disapproval and outrage over Chauvin's conduct. The Minneapolis Police Department, in charging Derek Chauvin, attested that Chauvin went against procedure and training when he knelt on Floyd's neck.
Did Derek Chauvin kill George Floyd? The extant evidence says he did. At a minimum, his actions--described as wrong by his own department as well as other police departments--contributed towards that death. That is homicide by definition.
But Was It Racist?
The presumption of racism by Derek Chauvin is hardly supported by clear evidence. The video evidence does not show any officer using racial slurs or language towards George Floyd.
The strongest evidence of racism is the history of accusations against the MPD of discrimination against black people, coupled with the fact that Derek Chauvin is white and George Floyd was black.
That is hardly strong evidence. Not every encounter between a white police officer and a black suspect is racist.
Additionally, we cannot escape the reality the police were called to the scene, or that George Floyd had drugs in his system. Any presumption of racial animus simply because a police officer responds to a call is absurd on its face. Any presumption of racial animus simply because a police officer is called to deal with an intoxicated person is absurd on its face.
Regardless of Derek Chauvin's views on race, they could not possibly have been a factor leading him to participate in Floyd's arrest.
By the same token, charges of racism cannot be simply dismissed. Derek Chauvin violated police procedure. He has received a number of complaints over his 19-year career, and been involved in three shootings. One cannot argue with conviction that Derek Chauvin was a model police officer.
Moreover, he was the training officer for two of the other officers charged, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, both of whom were new to the police force. The extent to which Chauvin's conduct history impacted the actions and decisions of Lane and Kueng is a matter to be adjudicated during their respective trials, but it would be quite the stretch to suggest that Chauvin's past had no impact.
Was the incident racially motivated or racially influenced? Based solely on the evidence, the only reasonable answer is "I do not know". We do not know. We may suspect, but we cannot know.
Bad Conduct Is Bad Conduct, Regardless Of Race
What we do know is that Derek Chauvin's conduct was wrong. He violated police procedure and the evidence indicates that because he violated police procedure a man died.
We also know that police engage in bad conduct with non-black suspects. While they go unheralded in the legacy media, within any litany of police misconduct are deaths like that of Tony Timpa, a white man who died in a manner not unlike George Floyd's death. Unlike Floyd's autopsy report, the autopsy on Tony Timpa made no equivocation: the police played a role in his death.
An autopsy ruled Timpa's cause of death was a homicide, sudden cardiac death due to "the toxic effects of cocaine and the stress associated with physical restraint."
Also disturbing in Tony Timpa's death is the video footage that shows the officers involved mocking Timpa as he lay dying.
The footage also shows the officers mocking Timpa as he struggled to live. Shortly after one officer ridicules Timpa’s repeated cries for help, an officer notes that he appears to be “out cold.”
They joke that he’s merely asleep and try to wake him: “It’s time for school. Wake up!”
One officer mimics a teen saying: “I don’t want to go to school! Five more minutes, Mom!”
They joke about buying him new shoes for the first day of school and making him a special breakfast, laughing loudly.
We should note that the footage of Chauvin does not show him mocking Floyd in this fashion. The casual disregard shown by the police for Tony Timpa's life greatly exceeded that shown by Derek Chauvin for George Floyd's life.
In a bizarre ending to the Timpa incident, the officers involved were indicted by a grand jury, only to have Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot dismiss the charges.
What we are forced to conclude from the Tony Timpa case is that police are just as capable of misconduct involving white suspects as they are of misconduct involving black suspects. The case against those police officers is every bit as compelling as the case against Derek Chauvin, and it remains a mystery why DA Creuzot did not follow through with trying them.
What is not a mystery is that bad conduct is bad conduct, regardless of race.
A Thought Experiment
The Tony Timpa case also invites us to engage in a simple thought experiment.
Ask yourself this one simple question: "Is it acceptable for a white officer to kneel on the neck of a white suspect?" The available answers are "Yes" and "No."
Ask yourself also this follow-up question: "Is it acceptable for a black officer to kneel on the neck of a black suspect?" Again, the available answers are "Yes" and "No."
If you answered "Yes" to either question, on what basis do you object to a white officer kneeling on the neck of a black suspect?
If you answered "No" to either question, on what basis do you conclude that race was a primary factor in George Floyd's death?
Given that police are broadly trained not to kneel on necks, the correct answer to both questions is clearly "No". Thus the relevant issues are not ones of racial animus but simple police misconduct without regard to race.
No Evidence Police Target Blacks For Killing
The relevance of race recedes further when we look at broader statistics on the use of lethal force by police. Drawing on data from the Washington Post's Police Shootings Database (which, we should note, seeks to prove a presumption of police brutality as well as racism), we very quickly see that most police shootings do not involve blacks.
Overall, the data shows a broadly consistent trend of approximately 1,000 police shootings each year, of which black deaths account for approximately 20-22%, while white deaths account for approximately 37-45%
In pretty much any given year, the police kill roughly twice as many white people as black people. Even if one accepts a premise of racial animus against blacks by police, the data does not indicate that police go out of their way to target or kill blacks. That assertion is not supported by even biased evidence.
Race Is Not The Issue. Police Brutality Is.
As I have said previously, George Floyd is not the issue. George Floyd's race is not the issue. Derek Chauvin's race is not the issue.
Police brutality is the issue. Period, full stop.
George Floyd should not have died in police custody. Neither should Tony Timpa have died. The police should be above the law, and should never think the badge is a license to disregard either fundamental rights or fundamental dignity.
This is not the message of "Black Lives Matter." It never has been. From the beginning, the movement has never been about police brutality or misconduct, pursuing an agenda of grievance based solely on race.
Black America is in a state of protest. The 21st-century civil rights movement, exemplified by the action taken by Garza and those like her, is democratic in its aims and agile in its responses. It is fuelled by grief and fury, by righteous rage against injustice and institutionalised racism and by frustration at the endemic brutality of the state against those it deems unworthy.
Yet the movement has said nothing about the murder of David Dorn, a retired black police officer murdered by looters during riots in St. Louis. Based on their silence, BLM does not believe David Dorn's life mattered.
Dave Patrick Underwood was a black Federal Protective Services officer shot and killed during riots in Oakland. Based on their silences, BLM does not believe Patrick Underwood's life matters.
Italia Marie Kelly was a biracial woman shot and killed as she was leaving a protest in Iowa City. Based on their silence, BLM does believe Italia Marie Kelly's life matters.
David McAtee was shot and killed in Louisville, Kentucky, after apparently firing on police. Based on their silence, BLM does not believe David McAtee's life mattered.
Chris Beaty was shot and killed in Indianopolis, Indiana, during a riot-related home invasion. Based on their silence, BLM does not believe Chris Beaty's life mattered.
Nor has the movement said anything about the wanton looting, arson, and violence in cities across the United States, much of which has harmed other black people, such as Minneapolis firefighter Korboi "KB" Balla, whose sports bar was destroyed by rioters just as it was set to open. Based on their silence, BLM does not believe Korboi Balla's life matters, nor his livelihood.
The unidentified owners of the Valentine Deli Corp in the Bronx section of New York City had their business looted and vandalized by rioters incited by BLM, and one was quite vocal about it:
You says black lives matter. I worked here part-time. Plus I’m a part-owner of this store. You said black lives matter. Why don’t you choke me? I’m black. Look what you did to my store. Look at the things you’ve done, look. We’ve been here all night cleaning up,
BLM has yet to condemn the destruction of this or any other black-owned business. Based on their silence, BLM does not believe the lives of the Valentine Deli owners matter, or their livelihood.
These are but a few of the black lives extinguished as a direct result of the riots incited and encouraged under the rubric "Black Lives Matter". With neither expression of regret nor anything resembling apology, the anarchic chant "Black Lives Matter" has rolled through a number of black neighborhoods, destroying the very lives they claim matter.
By their actions, the BLM movement makes their chant a lie. By their actions, the BLM movement does not believe that black lives matter, or that any lives matter. By their actions, the BLM movement creates and perpetuates injustice.
All Lives Must Matter
Police brutality is wrong, not because it is visited upon a black man or a white man, but because the police are charged with enforcing the law and protecting the community. When police cross over the line, when they assault and kill citizens, the police become a threat to the community, and that must never stand.
It does not matter if the person assaulted is white or black, or if the offending officer is white or black. A police officer who becomes a threat to the community must never be tolerated.
Rioting is wrong, not because it is done by blacks or whites, but because it is a direct assault on the community. The difference between riot and insurrection is merely one of degree. Riot, insurrection, violence of any kind is the primary reason communities need police forces, and why governments are charged with stopping riots.
It does not matter if rioters are white or black, or if the rioters are assaulting white communities or black communities. Rioters are a threat to every community and must never be tolerated.
A community is either safe as a whole or it is not safe as a whole. There is no third option. The notion of the BLM movement, that the safety concerns of but a portion of the community can be addressed without regard to the community as a whole, is absurd on its face.
Black lives cannot be protected unless all lives are protected.
Black lives cannot be valued unless all lives are valued.
Black lives cannot matter unless all lives matter.
All lives must be protected. All lives must be valued. All lives must matter--or none of them will.