After watching the 9-minute video clip of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin using his knee to press the last breath out of George Floyd, we need to hear Chauvin’s side of the story.
I swore as I angrily smashed my tablet against my chair and screamed in pain watching Chauvin’s brutality and the indifference of his fellow police officer as George Floyd suffered and died defenselessly.
After seeing the video, the thought of Derek Chauvin being strapped to an electric chair and blasted to his death seemed to me to be the only way to get justice for George Floyd.
To be transparent, as an active participant in the prison chaplaincy in Québec, I do not believe in the death penalty. I believe in restorative justice – requiring offenders to be accountable for their actions through dialogue and reconciliation with their victims and the community at large.
In the aftermath of my feelings of anger and revenge, I have had some time to reflect and I have come full circle. I still passionately believe that restorative justice will move us forward to a better world.
I certainly hope that Derek Chauvin is punished to the full extent of the law. He and persons of his ilk must be locked away.
That said, we need to listen to the voices of evil, even those of Derek Chauvin and his obsequious accomplices. This is how we can understand why evil behaviour emerges from stereotyping and prejudice. This understanding offers us the possibility to address and eradicate racism.
As tragic as it is, through this incident, George Floyd has taught the world that there is an enormous amount of work that must be done to establish justice and eradicate the pernicious, malignant disease of racism.
Many lessons are being learned about the challenges, threats and dangers that Black people live with every day. Many victims of racism and police brutality are now telling their stories, and they are being heard.
Racism has emerged from ignorance and fear that are rooted in the legacy of slavery of Black people. Racism thrives on the legacy of slavery that has conferred continuing economic power and privilege mainly on White people. Most of us – Black and non-Black people – understand this and show our abhorrence of racial injustice.
Laws have been passed to enshrine racial equality. Prayers are said pleading divine intervention to stop racism and enable us to create a harmonious world. Commemorative days, rallies, projects, and various activities are held – all of this, to mitigate and eradicate racism.
So why are we still struggling with racial profiling, affirmative action, systemic racism, injustice, and police brutality?
As long as we curse out the racists, punish them occasionally and continue to accept politically correct behavior from those who are too scared to confront their own hidden prejudices, we will never eradicate racism. Those who perpetuate racism consciously and unconsciously, need to know why racism is wrong and unjustified.
We need to deepen our collective understanding of the fears, beliefs, and responses of people who use the authority entrusted to them to abuse those who are defenseless and vulnerable, particularly those of the Black race. These “people” include employers, landlords, judges, teachers, corporate executives, politicians, priests, pastors, healthcare workers and many more of us.
This is why Derek Chauvin needs to tell his side of the story, by answering the following questions.
- What was going through his mind when he first saw George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, alleged to have used a counterfeit twenty dollar bill?
- Was he acting out of fear based on a stereotypical belief that Black men are violent?
- Would his approach have been different if he were apprehending a White person or a woman?
- And if he felt fear, why did he continue to use undue force to torture a defenseless, Black man who he restrained?
- Did his police uniform and gun make him feel shielded from the consequences of his actions?
- What was it that emboldened him to continue, even though he was being filmed by persons pleading for mercy, in broad daylight on a busy thoroughfare?
- Did the fact that there was no objection from his fellow police officer, a member of a visible minority group, make him think that it was okay to act with impunity?
- Was he so confident that his Police Chief would defend his actions?
Many of us who have been victims of racism may already know or assume that we know the answers to these questions. But we need to know what goes through the mind of a White police officer when he or she sees a Black person.
The outrage of the George Floyd tragedy will only be appeased for a while if a guilty verdict is rendered.
Racists need more than their day in court.
If as a human race we do not take the time to understand why racism persists, the worldwide outrage will fester and explode again. We can only eradicate the evil of racism by educating people and helping them to rid themselves of the deep seated reasons why they believe what they believe.
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
– Nelson Mandela