Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

30 May 2020

Don’t Get Mad or Sad, Get Justice


For brief descriptions of and links to recent posts, click here. For an inverse-chronological list with links to all posts after January 23, 2017, click here. For a subject-matter index to posts before that date, click here.

George Floyd, R.I.P.

There he was, with his hands chained like a slave, helpless and no threat to anyone. There he was, flat on the ground, with his torso wedged between the asphalt and a tire. There he was, with a rogue cop’s knee on his neck, pleading for his life and calling for his mother with his last breath. There he was, suffering and suffocating for nine whole minutes, crying “I can’t breathe.” There he died, surrounded by three other cops who did nothing, or who may have helped crush him, and by bystanders who called repeatedly, in vain, for justice, mercy, common sense and simple humanity.

George Floyd died like this in the twenty-first century, in our America, not in the antebellum South. He died like this in modern Minneapolis, for God’s sake—a happy and progressive far-north city filled with even-tempered descendents of Scandinavians! If this can happen in Minneapolis, it can happen anywhere in our nation.

Cell phones and security cameras captured the entire outrage. Quentin Tarantino, our virtuoso of movie violence, could not have created a film of fiction more evocative of white supremacy, long-banished slavery, Nazism here at home, or the vile brutality of American racism. The videos of George Floyd’s death have shown us all the depths to which we as a society have sunk.

But George Floyd was just the latest victim in a long line of racist killings. There was Eric Garner. And Freddie Gray. And Sandra Bland. And they were just the ones who, like Floyd, died without gunfire.

There is a whole other category of gunshot victims. There was Ahmed Aubrey, shot to death by a father-son “team” in what, to all appearances, was a hunting expedition. There was Breonna Taylor, shot to death by police in Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky while sleeping in her own home. There was Walter Scott, shot in the back by a bad cop in South Carolina while running away. There was Michael Brown, Jr., shot to death by police in Ferguson, Missouri, at the tender age of 18. And these are just the names I remember, off the top of my head, well enough to Google their proper spelling.

When you consider the minor charges for which these men and women died, the outrage grows. George Floyd was arrested for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill. Eric Garner was stopped for selling cigarettes individually and without a license, and Freddie Gray for possessing a knife. Sandra Bland died in jail after having been stopped for a minor traffic violation.

So we now have two plagues in America. One is Covid-19. The other is over-the-top racist brutality of police and people who think they are. One is an Act of God, a product of Nature. The other is man-made, entirely our own fault.

The responsive fires and protests now raging across America are not just spasms of rage in our minority communities. They are reflections of the outrage that every right-thinking American feels on seeing this latest atrocity of many, which so tellingly sums them all up.

To understand how wide and deep the outrage runs, just watch David Brooks, the conservative white pundit, in his regular appearance on PBS. A self-identified conservative who long ago abandoned Trump as irredeemable, Brooks had recently maintained a sunny optimism, seeing the best of us even in our spastic and leaderless response to the plague. Last night, he was close to tears. [Set the timer at 00:22.]

Then watch Joe Biden in his short speech on Floyd—his face a study in grief, sternness and outrage. “We need to stand up as a nation,” he said, to fight systemic racism and bring rogue cops to account.

Like Joe Biden, all right-thinking pols must stop tiptoeing around racism and racists, as if there were a whole mass of white people who can’t make up their minds between modern humanity and medieval tribal brutality. There isn’t. There is a mass of white people who are irreconcilable racists, but nearly all of them love Trump. There is no reason for any Democrat—or any just and rational public servant—to give their racist views any weight at all.

The humorist Will Rogers once joked that “Not all Democrats are horse thieves, but all horse thieves are Democrats.” Today his words apply to Republicans and racists, and not in jest. Not all Republicans are racists, but virtually all racists are Republicans. Ever since Nixon developed his disgraceful “Southern Strategy” in response to Lyndon Johnson signing the civil rights bills, racists have migrated to the GOP in droves. The result is Trump, his lackeys and the most virulently and explicitly racist national government since the end of Reconstruction.

Democrats in general, and Biden in particular, have nothing to gain from coddling or tiptoeing around racists, let alone pandering to them. They’re not going to gain any votes by doing so. All they will do is disappoint white progressives and minorities and let them think their votes don’t matter. It’s better to let one’s outrage, one’s tears and one’s humanity show.

As for me, I make a pledge. I just increased my donations to Biden, Amy McGrath (Mitch McConnell’s nemesis), Fair Fight Action (Stacey Abrams’ voter-empowerment group), Black Voters Matter, and Nse Ufot’s New Georgia Project by $100 per month each, in memory of George Floyd. If my fixed income allows, for every extrajudicial police killing of a nonwhite person while in custody between now and November 3, I will do the same again.

I hope and pray that George Floyd is the last. But whatever the future holds, I want to see a purifying wind of justice—a nonviolent electoral hurricane—sweep our vile excuse for a president and his lackeys out of power and out of public life this year. I want to see them gone from Washington, every state capital, and every city hall.

If we all do what we can toward that end, we can make it happen. We may not be a majority-minority nation quite yet, but white progressives like me, together with woke, registered and voting minorities, can swing the balance. If George Floyd’s tragic and unnecessary death can move us to vote all the bastards out, he will not have died in vain.

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