The Killing of George Floyd

George Floyd has recently been more omnipresent on the Internet than just about anything else in recent memory, except maybe the Coronavirus.

For good reason, too. This is obviously a case of substantial injustice and probably murder. At the very absolute minimum, we can say with 100% confidence that the police were in the wrong and that Derek Chauvin committed – at minimum – manslaughter. [1]

Facts

In cases like this, precious few people seem to take time to look up the facts. In this particular case, the most significant facts are well-known and few-to-no major misconceptions seem prevalent as in other cases. Still, it’s helpful to spread around what is known:

  1. Officer Derek Chauvin caused the death of George Floyd by leaning his knee on Floyd’s neck for an extended period of time. Other LEOs indicate that he should never have been leaning on his neck in the first place. Whether or not that’s true, he clearly did so for far too long.
  2. Both Chauvin and the three other officers involved were fired by the MPD the next day. [5]
  3. Both the FBI and Minnesota’s BCA are investigating. [3] Chauvin has been charged with third-degree-murder. [12]
  4. Floyd allegedly tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill. [6] (Obviously, this is in no way justification for what happened. In fact, as far as I know, we can’t state with confidence that Floyd even necessarily knew that the bill was counterfeit.)
  5. Police claim that Floyd was “under the influence”[7] As far as I know, this has not been verified by anyone. And like the counterfeit bill, it doesn’t really matter anyway.
  6. Police claim that Floyd was resisting arrest. [7] Two different videos seem to corroborate this to some degree. [14][15] Ultimately, though, this doesn’t matter. Chauvin clearly went far beyond what was necessary to subdue Floyd and flouted the principle of minimum necessary force.
  7. People have claimed that Chauvin wore a “Make Whites Great Again” hat. This is false. The photo is of Jonathan Lee Riches, who claims (unverifiably) that the photo was altered. [9]
  8. People have claimed that Chauvin was on stage at a Trump rally. This is false. The man on stage was Mike Gallagher of the Bloomington Police Federation. [10]

Reactions

Reactions seem to fall into one or more of these categories (among others not listed):

  1. Expressions of sorrow, disgust, outrage, etc. with calls for Derek Chauvin and/or the other officers to be held accountable.
  2. Expressions of sympathy with the family of Floyd.
  3. White people apologizing.
  4. Expressions of sympathy with / regret regarding the plight of black Americans in general with respect to this particular case.
  5. Indictments of our systems of law enforcement and justice based on this particular case.
Officer Accountability

The first category (criticism of the officers) is fully justified and commendable. There can be no reasonable doubt that Chauvin did something evil, regardless of whether that’s determined to be manslaughter or murder, and regardless of whether Floyd was actually using counterfeit money or under the influence or resisting arrest at some point. Chauvin has a sketchy record at best and the main video is pretty clear. There might be a tiny amount of debatability regarding the other officers. But, at minimum, they’re probably guilty of inaction when they should have intervened. Hopefully, the sheer volume of these reactions will help achieve justice in this particular situation and help ensure it in the future.

Sympathy for Floyds

The second category (sympathy with Floyd’s family) is obviously similarly commendable. On a somewhat unrelated side note: from what I can tell, the family and friends of Floyd have reacted with remarkable restraint and astuteness. It’s easy to imagine how something like this happening to a loved one could cause someone to overreact and want to burn the whole system down. Indeed, such has frequently occurred in cases like this. But that’s not what they’ve done. In particular, kudos to Floyd’s girlfriend Courtney Ross, who said in a clear reference to the community’s reactions (or potential reactions):[2]

You can’t fight fire with fire. Everything just burns, and I’ve seen it all day — people hate, they’re hating, they’re hating, they’re mad. And he would not want that. He wouldn’t, he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t. He would give grace — I stand on that today — he would still give grace to those people.

White Guilt

The third category (white guilt) is silly. The concept that one person is responsible for the actions of someone they’ve never met or even influenced is preposterous. This concept is the source of all sorts of horrible things. In fact, it is even a contributor to racism. For example, when someone suffers some evil (real or perceived) at the hands of an individual or group, then generalizes their resulting resentment, anger, or hatred against that individual’s or group’s entire race. (Examples might include a white man declaring Mexicans are horrible because one “took his job” or declaring blacks evil because he was once robbed by one.) Please don’t feed this concept or give it any validity.

Arabs and Muslims as a whole are not responsible for 9/11.

Japanese people as a whole bear no responsibility for Pearl Harbor.

Black Americans as a whole bear no responsibility for Gosnell’s atrocities.

And white Americans as a whole bear no responsibility for Derek Chauvin.

Sympathy for Black Americans

The fourth category is, of course, more reasonable as it pertains to general circumstances. But I would encourage a degree of caution and restraint as it pertains to this case. I know this will make a lot of people angry, but it’s the simple truth: we do not yet know whether race was even a factor. When a person does something evil to a person of another race, it is not automatically true that racism was involved. Racism is not a person mistreating someone of a different race. Racism is a person mistreating someone because of their race.

For example, when a group of black men attempted to accost and rob me in college, there was no reason for me to assume that they were doing so because I’m white. Most likely, their motivations were purely financial.

Similarly, when a black man stole my bike, I can say with certainty that my race had nothing to do with his motivations (as he did not see me until he was already making his escape).

(My car was also broken into by someone who was probably white, but obviously there was no racism there.)

Both the former group and the latter individual did something evil and deserve to face consequences for it, but there is no reason to assume racism on their part.

We do not know this was an instance of racism. Now, don’t get me wrong. It very well may turn out that it is. Derek Chauvin could be a full-blown white supremacist for all I know. But to my knowledge, we do not yet have any real reason to conclude that he is. He has a checkered record as a police officer, so perhaps there is something in that which does indicate some racism (if so, please let me know).

But, please, “innocent” until proven guilty. In fact, we don’t really know anything about Chauvin’s motives. Was he a racist taking the opportunity to harm a black man as much as he thought he could get away with? Was he an overly-aggressive officer who used excessive force because of contempt for a perceived lower-class individual and/or criminal? Or is he just incredibly unperceptive and stupid? We really don’t know (though we can probably disregard that last possibility given his record; if it does turn out to be true, then that shifts some blame to the department and its policies/practices).

The previous paragraphs should not be misconstrued as a defense of Chauvin in general or a claim that he is innocent in general. Like I said before, he’s clearly guilty of inappropriate force and manslaughter at minimum, and quite possibly murder. And in my estimation, there was some degree of malicious intent. It is good that he was fired the next day and I fully support him facing the full consequences for his actions.

The Floyd Case as a General Criticism

And, finally, we have the fifth category: using Floyd’s death as the basis for criticisms of law enforcement and the justice system as a whole. This is of middling value and accuracy.

After all, the system seems to be working correctly. Within a day, Chauvin and the other officers involved were fired from the Minneapolis police department and the FBI initiated an investigation at the request of that same department[3] (and possibly Trump[4]). Whatever their motives may be, the department is to be commended for this. If the departments involved with Steven Avery (and maybe Michael Brown) had done likewise, perhaps events would have unfolded better. Also, note that Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder.[12]

Using specific cases like this as a wholesale indictment of our system is typically the result of basing conclusions on feelings and emotions rather than facts and logic. I’ve even seen people claim with complete confidence that nothing like this ever happens to white people. There is no basis for this exaggeration. Police kill more white people than they do black people (about 1.5-2.5 [16][17] times as many, in fact). That is a simple, easily verifiable fact, yet people act like I’m making things up because the media has so twisted their perceptions. That is not to say that there aren’t some issues, or that race absolutely doesn’t play a role. Per capita, far more black people are killed by police (about 2.5 times the white rate [16]; higher if you include more historical data [17]). So there is clearly a disparity.

But I really wish people would stop engaging in the practice of assuming the worst possible cause or motive and drawing conclusions based on that assumption.

Insinuating that someone takes a certain position on some issue primarily because they have some undisclosed sinister motive is one of the most obnoxious things a person can do.

Being Classically Liberal Facebook page [11]

It’s what renders people incapable of having civil discussions about differences. And it’s what gives people undeserved certainty in claiming that a negative result involving racial disparities is absolutely caused by racist motivations. It very well may be (and probably is to some degree). But there are other reasonable explanations worth investigating. This applies both to people stating opinions and to statistical disparities on the basis of race, class, sex, etc. Case in point, I have been told that I am racist against Latinos for my opinions on illegal immigration. Never mind that I’m married to a Guatemalan, or that a close Mexican friend has even stronger opinions on the subject than I do.

All I ask is that people not make confident assertions about causes and motives until they’ve ruled out other reasonable explanations and done their due diligence. We don’t need to be 100% certain before making such assertions, but we should at least be beyond the point of reasonable doubt.

References

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lirHz93qJ50
  2. https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2020/05/26/he-was-kind-he-was-helpful-friends-family-say-george-floyd-was-a-gentle-giant/
  3. https://kstp.com/news/investigation-minnesota-bca-fbi-man-in-medical-distress-handcuffs-/5741256/
  4. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1265774770877902848
  5. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/minneapolis-police-officer-center-george-floyd-s-death-had-history-n1215691
  6. https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/05/28/george-floyd-store-owner-staff-call-police-ctn-sot-vpx.cnn
  7. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/minneapolis-police-george-floyd-died-officer-kneeling-neck-arrest/
  8. https://twitter.com/AlexLehnertFox9/status/1265409119843954694
  9. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/05/27/george-floyd-derek-chauvin-untrue-social-media-claims/5271890002/
  10. https://apnews.com/afs:Content:8993962141
  11. https://www.facebook.com/BCLcommunity/posts/1366133756754376
  12. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/minneapolis-police-officers-derek-chauvin-arrested-george-floyd-case-n1216011
  13. https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/05/28/george-floyd-store-owner-staff-call-police-ctn-sot-vpx.cnn
  14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lirHz93qJ50
  15. https://www.instagram.com/p/CA1BObVnbqt
  16. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/topic-pages/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-6.xls
  17. https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/
  18. https://www.pnas.org/content/116/34/16793?fbclid=IwAR38TyVt1LHj-oz3_1yKX_MLTVR7czcaGa1SVHrygH13aQCjsQG45_9F_6E

Edits

  1. 2020-06-02 09:25 EST – Added reaction sub-headings. Added verbiage to Reactions 4-5 and a couple of other sentences for clarity and specificity. Moved Facts section from bottom to top.
  2. 2020-06-02 11:00 EST – Added embedded posts & videos. Added a couple clarifying words and added the last sentence before the References section.
  3. 2020-06-02 13:13 EST – Added sources for police killing statistics.
  4. 2020-06-05 15:26 EST – Minor word tweaks and clarity edits.

Feel the Bern: Part 3: Social Justice

Social Injustice & Inequality

The second video of the sociopolitical discourse between Killer Mike and Bernie Sanders kicks off with Bernie bemoaning the “outrage” that is the existence of homelessness in America. He is also rightfully upset over the employment status of the African American demographic. The growth of American incarceration is mentioned, as is outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, and tax evasion among the wealthy. He rails against the indifference of business owners towards the national debt, against the greed of the “people on top,” and against America choosing a wealth/poverty system over a equally-and-moderately prosperous system.

Killer Mike, for his part, professes a trust of most old people and criticizes the departure of the American steel industry. He lays this at the feet of the increasing selfishness and greed throughout the country and wonders why people vote against their own self-interest. The video ends in agreement on the dangers posed by creating monarchs of political families.

Homelessness: To Be Or Not To Be?

A major problem in American discourse on homelessness is the variance of definitions. Generally, when a typical American refers to someone as “homeless,” the implication is that they are chronically homeless, in the sense that they have been homeless for a period of years. It also typically implies that they are likely to remain homeless. The problem is that both these characteristics are a tiny, though not insignificant, minority.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR), approximately 1.59 million Americans were homeless at some point between October of 2009 and September of 2010. Let’s stop right there and note the accomplishment. The 2010 census revealed a US population of 308 million:

Homeless:   1590000
American: 308000000

Even assuming that all of the 2010 homeless were permanently homeless, that means the homeless population accounts for 0.5% of the US population. While we should certainly strive to eliminate this unfortunate phenomenon, a 99.5% success rate is pretty amazing, as I’m sure any grade-schooler expecting a report card would agree.

But that 0.5% can be considered exaggerated, because only 39.1% of that 1.59 million were homeless prior to October of 2009, bringing what might be termed the “homeless problem” down to 0.2%! I do not mean to dismiss the hardships the other 955K people endured, but while homelessness that ends in less than a year[1] is worth addressing, it is not all-important, especially in the face of the yearly million or so abortions and the specter of more US involvement in the Middle East. Nor does it necessitate a massive rethinking of the system.

In any case, the number of chronically (using a fairly liberal definition[2]) homeless individuals – that is, the definition most commonly assumed by typical Americans – was around 124K in 2010. It is worth mentioning how many of the homeless actually choose homelessness due to a gypsy-like love of roaming, a desire for near-total freedom, or even, yes, simple laziness. My parents once took a homeless woman off the streets for several months. They finally made the difficult decision to have her leave after she spent those months watching TV over the Internet in the room she virtually monopolized, all while doing nothing around the house save cleaning dishes on occasion. She did have some mitigating health issues, but the point is that she never exhibited a desire to earn her keep or even express gratitude in any tangible sense.

Hopefully, we can agree that the issue of homelessness is small enough to be considered even by the most ardent statist as falling under the purview of private charity and existing systems.

Black Employment

It is true that the employment situation among African Americans is disproportionately negative. However, it does not necessarily logically follow that this necessitates political action. Given that the United States has elected a black President and that many of the country’s leading executives and business owners are minorities, it is irrational to assume the unemployment issue is a result of systemic racism. And therefore, I find it very likely that it is cultural shifts – not political revolutions – that are required. The idolization of gangsters and the idea that economic success marks one as discredited or even someone who betrays or abandons one’s race must stop. I won’t be so arrogant as to outline goals and plans for the reduction of African American unemployment. There are many people more qualified and in touch with the community than either myself or Bernie Sanders. And many of them are saying the exact things I just wrote.

Wisdom of the Ancients

Killer Mike briefly breaks from politics to express his trust for most of the elderly. It might interest those of similar sentiments to know that the elderly are much more likely than youth to embrace the label of “conservative,” which when coupled with the idea that the elderly possess vast stores of wisdom gives rise to the saying that “a young conservative has no heart, but an old liberal has no brain.”

Steeling Economic Prosperity

Killer Mike cites the flight of the US steel industry as evidence of growing selfishness, completely ignoring the preceding unionization of the steel industry and accompanying rise in costs, the liberalization of China, and other relevant factors. This seems indicative of a common statist practice – ascribing malicious motives to the direct actors of a specific economic event rather than holistically considering all the build-up and convergence of circumstances that propels a system to such an act.

Similarly, Sanders lambastes U.S. business owners for moving jobs overseas, which creates several interesting questions. First, where is the intellectual integrity in demanding higher wages while simultaneously wishing to penalize outsourcing? Second, is Sanders implying that Americans deserve those jobs more than the Chinese or the Indians? If so, how can he claim that his ideology is motivated by a compassion for the poor or a desire for equality? If not, then why is outsourcing a morally negative practice?

The Good Old Days

Mike and Bernie seem in agreement that the United States is becoming more selfish, more greedy, and more self-absorbed. Putting aside the issue that this supposed trend coincides temporally with a rise in policies and legislation in line with Sanders’ plans (increases of government spending, increased welfare, increased taxes, increased regulation), I wish to examine this common failing amongst people of all walks of life and political persuasions. That is, a yearning for the Good Old Days and a belief that people from one time period are fundamentally different than those from some preceding time period. The Good Old Days of business owners supposedly caring more for their employees and being more selfless were also the Bad Old Days of lower standards-of-living, racist legislation, and massive warfare. I am not implying causal links between these things. I am merely attempting to remove the rose-colored glasses with which these two statists are viewing modern history.

What About the Deficit?

Continuing in a similar vein, Sanders attacks business owners for not caring about the national deficit. This is highly irrational and hypocritical. Irrational because, except in the context of voting, it is not truly a business owner’s responsibility to care for the national deficit. That is the responsibility of those who create it, i.e. the government, i.e. Senator Sanders. His attack heavily implies that he believes one should have concern for the deficit. That is an interesting opinion for a man who consistently advocates for increased government spending in almost every category. One may argue that he also endorses corresponding tax increases, but if the government has thus far been unable to balance what it has, it seems unwise to exacerbate the problem by continuously tithing more and more money into the abyss.

Greed

A consistent theme throughout the video is the greed of the rich and powerful. But Mike and Bernie seem to espouse a double standard on the definition of greed. According to the Sum Total of Human Knowledge, greed is composed of an

intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.

Selfish simply means to desire for oneself (without regard for or to the detriment of others). While the wealthy Sanders and successful Killer Mike may not be putting forth ideologies that are selfish from their perspective, it is obvious that they are appealing to the selfishness (and greed) of the voting public (among other – possibly more positive – things). And in this context of satisfying one’s own needs and wants by taxing the properties of others (and justifying it with accusations of excess and greed), we must add envy to the list as well. Sanders is building his campaign on voters’ desire for free healthcare, free food, free education, and free shelter. (That is, sanfreedoms.[3])

In light of this attack on selfishness and greed, it is incongruous that Killer Mike complains that many of the Sanders opposition seem to be voting against their own self-interest. One cannot maintain integrity by both attacking greed and appealing to it.

On a cliché note: Killer Mike and Bernie Sanders claim the country is selfish. Indeed it is, such is the nature of mankind. Free market economies are fueled by and dependent on this selfishness. The leftist ideals these two espouse are dependent on changing this aspect of human nature, of establishing a system fueled by that which we lack in sufficient quantities: selflessness.

Fallacy Time!

It is at this point that Bernie Sanders appeals to a major and all-too-common false dilemma. In his view, the world can be a world of haves and have-nots (the wealthy and the homeless) or a world where everyone is “doing pretty well.” It is inarguable that self-interest creates wealth (through mining, farming, and construction, among others). It is also evident that in the general sense, selflessness merely shares wealth (few have ever obtained or created jobs and goods solely for the purpose of providing for others). Therefore, a system that rewards selfishness will tend to increase in overall wealth, while a system that does not will tend to stay level at best, and will almost certainly decline.

The two options presented are not immediately obvious as a false dilemma until you add in the hidden qualifiers. That is, in Sanders’ view (as stated), the world can be a place of wealth disparity with a given quantity of wealth or a place of relative equality with that same quantity of wealth. In actuality there are several potential systems, and among them are wealth disparity with a world-leading quantity[4] of wealth and wealth equality with a much lesser quantity of wealth as evidenced by Denmark’s[5] $10,000-lower per-capita wealth.

To put it cliché terms, any rational individual would prefer a smaller slice of a larger pie than a perfectly equal slice of an insufficient, shrinking pie.

Together in One Accord

Killer Mike ends the video with apprehension over the potential creation of “monarch” families in American politics, a concern which I share wholeheartedly. He is referring to the potential of Hillary Clinton’s election as the second President in her household. And no doubt Sanders would use a similar argument (correctly and accurately) against a potential Bush dynasty.

I will however, caution that this is not a novel trend. The Kennedys have wielded substantial power over the last fifty years. Two Roosevelts have occupied the White House and the George W. Bush was not the first President Jr. While this concern would have likely prevented me from voting for Jeb Bush had he won the Republican primary, it is not cause for panic or hyperbole.

Engagement

As always, I welcome any criticisms or disagreements in the form of comments, messages, emails, or smoke signals. But be advised that (a) I may ignore or remove profanity or ad hominem attacks, (b) the First Amendment does not prevent me from doing this, and (c) if you inform me via smoke signal that you are a socialist, I may wonder what a socialite is doing on a political blog.

Notes

  1. A conservative assumption, given that AHAR’s homelessness estimate for 2015 is a mere 0.5 million, meaning that homelessness is declining, meaning that those who were newly homeless were not likely to remain so
  2. 1+ years or 4 instances of homelessness in the last 3 years.
  3. See Part 2
  4. As Sanders himself emphasized so thoroughly only one video ago.
  5. It is unfair to single out a particular country (insufficient sample size), but Bernie chose this one, so my intellectual conscience is clear.

Edits

  1. 2016-06-02 10:33 EST – Slightly updated definition of selfishness.