From the Right
By Don Schmitz
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on his neck while he was handcuffed on the ground for nine minutes. On Jan. 7, 2023, Tyre Nichols was tased, pepper sprayed, and beaten to death by six Memphis police officers.
All four Minneapolis police officers were fired the next day after the department reviewed the videos, and a short four days later, Chauvin was charged with murder. Memphis moved slower: The six officers were fired two weeks later, indicted a week after that, and have been charged with second-degree murder. In both cases the victims were Black, and both pled for their mothers to help them as they were being killed on our streets by abusive cops. Soul crushing.
The dichotomy in our country’s reaction to these events is striking and thought-provoking. The Floyd murder sparked the biggest national protests since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, in over 2,000 cities, 200 of which had to impose curfews due to looting, arson, and murders. Sixty-thousand National Guard personnel were deployed. Courthouses were firebombed, police stations were vandalized or burned, and monuments were destroyed around the country. Up to $2 billion in property damage occurred in the riots, and at least 18 people died, with many injured. In contrast, the protests in response to the Nichols killing have been exponentially smaller, and except for some minor vandalism, peaceful.
Why is that? As repulsive as Chauvin’s kneeling on Floyd’s neck was, the sheer brutality of the beating of Nichols last month with fists and batons, while he was restrained with his hands behind his back, eclipses it. Both victims were Black, with the obvious difference being in the Floyd case, the officers were white, whereas in the Nichols case, all the officers were also Black. Some have tried to rationalize the difference in our reaction to the responsiveness of the government in taking to task the police brutality in Memphis, but in reality, the Minneapolis police officers were terminated and charged with a crime quicker. Clearly, it’s the race of the abusive police that makes the difference.
I am a strong supporter of law enforcement, which is sometimes a violent and messy business when they need to subdue criminals who are resisting arrest. It can involve profanity, pepper spray, Tasers, batons, fists, and sometimes gunfights. They have a tough job, and sometimes it’s ugly, but overwhelmingly law enforcement is measured and conscientious. But when we see white police officers violently subduing black people, it triggers strong negative emotions in Americans.
Until the last half-century, we had a horrible record in parts of the country of abusive behavior to our Black citizenry. On bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, in Alabama, state and county police brutally attacked peaceful civil rights marchers on horseback with whips and clubs, hospitalizing dozens. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized another march two days later, and the brutal images galvanized America. The civil rights act was passed, with Democrat support only in the mid-60 percent range, while Republican support was in the 80th percentile, led by Everett Dirksen. We’ve come a long, long way, and we are not going to go back, but we are still hypersensitive to those images. Many Democrats regularly exploit the race card to attack political opponents, which is inflammatory and dangerous. In the recent Nichols case, President Biden still invoked his race, even though the police beating him were also Black. When an abusive cop is white, many presume his actions are racially motivated, with or without evidence, in part because the left inculcates entire communities with a drumbeat of “systemic racism.” Just elect them into power, and they will get it all fixed, they say, while proposing disastrous policies like defunding law enforcement. Where tried, defunding and disengagement has resulted in skyrocketing crime including rape, burglary, drug dealing, and murder, disproportionately in black neighborhoods. Interestingly, Gallup polls have shown that black Americans prefer to maintain police presence in their neighborhoods similar to the percentages of other Americans. However, Black and white Americans differ in their confidence in police more than any other U.S. institution, a 29 percent gap according to a 2021 Gallup poll. We have a lot of work still to do.
However, there may be a silver lining to this latest tragic event in Memphis. The police brutality, filmed and evident for all to see, doesn’t have the racial overtones of others, although the radical left will still try to contrive a theory on why it’s racism based. Truth is, all Americans of all races want safe communities for their children and to run their businesses. Maybe we are turning a corner where we all view them as “our police,” and work together for constructive reforms to eliminate abuse while maintaining their efficacy. Maybe.