Have we changed?
It is impossible to say. Societies evolve at a glacial pace, with the destination typically unclear until we have arrived. But with the anniversary of George Floyd’s death upon us, it is a reasonable time for reflection.
It was a year ago Tuesday that the 46-year-old Black man was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. A year ago that the officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes and snuffed the life out of him. A year ago that video of the murder awakened calls for justice throughout the United States — not only from people of color who long have decried police brutality, but among whites who finally decided to listen.
The officer has been convicted of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter. That, in itself, is a sign of change. As I wrote last May: “What was it like when the death … could occur in the shadows and then be obfuscated by some specious police report? Back then, our ignorance of such events could be an excuse for denial, if a flimsy one. But now? Now there is no plausible way to ignore the facts.”
A video made such ignorance impossible, yet facts are all too often malleable these days, tortured by our own personal lens and tinted by an underlying racism. And for anybody who has faith that the conviction represents a change in America, just take a look at the comments for any FoxNews.com story about the case. Um, consider yourself warned.
Indeed, there are those who will defend police officers in all circumstances. Or who will point out that Floyd allegedly had tried to pass a counterfeit bill. Or that he had drugs in his system. How that justifies kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed man who is face down on the pavement is not clear — because there is no justification.