It might sound presumptuous, elitist, or privileged, for me, a white male, to sound off about the “murders” of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. But, fortunately, we live in a nation where all viewpoints can be expressed and represented.
First-off, let me express my outrage and anger at the injustices perpetrated against the black community. Not just for Ahmaud, or George, but so many others who have been unfairly punished or seen their lives taken far too soon. It is inexcusable a country with a system of governance held up to be the beacon of the world allows injustice and tyranny to spread.
How else can one describe the murder of Ahmaud Arbery? The 25 year old was followed by two white men in a truck and led into an altercation where he was shot (two months before it was reported). After the “incident” at the time, the investigator at the scene wanted to arrest the two white men involved. But, one of the perpetrators was a former cop, and more importantly, knew the PA (Prosecuting Attorney) and was told to stand down. Only later, when video footage was released, were the men arrested. The local PA still has her job.
Examples like this, while rare, are alarmingly common. While blacks are disproportionately impacted by police brutality and corruption it highlights a much wider and deeper issue. One, which while intertwined by race, is not governed by it. The issue of power inequality.
As said before, one cannot disconnect the racial component to of this inequality. But, the primary mechanism for this to continue is not due to the color of one’s skin, but because the color of one’s skin determines whether one even has access to power. Once one does acquire power the incentive to revamp the power imbalance disappears.
How else is it that local Prosecuting Attorneys, and former cops (or current cops) have the power to protect each other and nobody notices? What else would give a cop with NINETEEN reprimands on his record the feeling he has the right to forcibly choke a black man not resisting arrest? Pretty simple really. The feeling you are omnipotent, cannot be touched and the powers that be will move heaven and earth to protect you. The knowledge the system is set up to your benefit to the detriment of others.
Case in point about Minneapolis and Georgia. In Georgia, one does not become a Prosecuting Attorney without cozying up to the powers that be, building informal relationships with the local cops and sheriffs, and covering their tails a time or two. In Minneapolis, the power of the police union cannot be denied. Like any union, the police union wants to protect its cops and they work to ensure the Chief of Police bows to their interests.
This is not just an issue of black vs. white as it might seem in Georgia. The current chief of Minneapolis is a African-American black man. The police chief before him was the first female, openly gay and Native American chief in city history. Notably, every mayor of the city since 1973 has been a DFL member but all have been white. All catered to the large black community on issues of policing. Nothing was done.
The way the system is structured across the country is to benefit law enforcement. This extends beyond police shootings to every aspect of criminal law in sentencing, the appeals process and more. How is anybody supposed to challenge a system when the system as it is structured now ensures it stays in power?
Right now, the results of the murders of more young black men appear likely to repeat previous cycles. One where civil unrest and violence occurs, Americans of all beliefs retrench into their personal or political belief corners, calls for racial equity increase, rioting and looting occurs, but little of substance changes.
This is how empires and nations fall by being unable to address the root causes of the problem and only address the symptoms. By not limiting the power of the criminal justice system and police officers, taking on the police unions (which challenges both left-wing and right-wing orthodoxy) and holding those in power accountable, we will wake up more mornings and see more of these deaths occur.
We, as Americans, as a society, as a nation, owe it to all the George Floyd’s and Ahmaud Arbery’s to use their deaths as a real catalyst for change. Unfortunately, it does not seem likely to happen.