Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t get any more challenging, the tragic and avoidable death of George Floyd happened.
It’s so hard for me to articulate how reading about George’s final moments have impacted me. The image of police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on his victim’s neck for painful and bottomless minutes is beyond words. Reading that the catalyst that lead to this mistreatment was suspicion of a counterfeit bill used to purchase a pack of cigarettes makes me furious.. and sad… and other things that, again, seem beyond my ability to articulate.
Something I haven’t shared on this blog is that there was a long period of my life that I dreamed to be a police officer. I wanted to make the world a better, safer place. I wanted to be part of the solution that would reduce violence, oppression, and suffering.
I even took a police foundations preparatory diploma at a community college. As a part of that program we learned the principles of use of force. This is the model by which officers are supposed to base their action and choose the appropriate amount of force required to compel compliance by an unwilling subject. Basically, it is a doctrine that helps an officer assess the minimum amount of force to use to ensure that people, including themselves, don’t get hurt.
In that program they stressed that judgement is not an officer’s role, it is the restoration of peace and subsequent empowerment of the courts to deliver appropriate sentencing for interruptions to that peace.
Reading about George Floyd is personally upsetting to me for a boatload of reasons. The officer did not keep to his oath of protecting the peace and, even worse, he underlined a fundamental and sad reality about society: not all life is considered equal. His actions suggest that he saw George’s life as less valuable than the pack of cigarettes he suspected him of stealing.
And this is unbearably upsetting to me.
Like many people worldwide I can’t help but wonder if the officer would have acted differently if George had looked different. And sadly, I think he would have. If George had not been black, but made the same choices he had that day, I suspect he would still be alive.
I recently saw a post on Instagram that said “privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it is not a problem to you personally”.
I think we are seeing that rejection of privilege expressed today in protests and social media blackouts from people of all colours. Although it’s unfortunate property is being damaged, killing innocent black people has to stop. I am encouraged that the loudest voice right now is insisting that all life should have equal and irreplaceable value. No one should have to spend their last moments as George Floyd did, and no officer should forget their oath to restore peace but not impose judgement.
Acts of hatred and violence happening in our communities are unacceptable and heartbreaking. I condemn all acts of bigotry and stand with the black community with all my feelings of pain and fear that come from those acts.