A Matter Of Right And Wrong

On top of two, nearly three, months of coronavirus issues—panic buying, stay-at-home orders, masks, social distancing, school and church closures, businesses closed down, many people losing their jobs, not to mention the nearly 2,000,000 people who have contracted the disease and the 109,000 or so who have died—the US has now been experiencing protests in various cities, many of which involved violence, looting, and burning.

The trigger issue was another death of an African-American at the hands of a police officer. While previous incidents have contained some measure of uncertainty regarding the justifiable use of force—and many have led to no criminal charges brought against the officers—this latest event appears, from video evidence of the incident, to be a more egregious example of inappropriate force used by police.

First, the officers, based on the 9-1-1 call, expected to find someone who was drunk and out of control. From all appearance, the accused, George Floyd, did not resist the police until he was instructed to enter the police vehicle. Even then he was not striking out at the officers but was not entering the vehicle with a struggle.

Second, the complaint against Mr. Floyd was made by a convenience store clerk who said he’d paid for his purchase with a counterfeit $20 bill—certainly not a violent crime.

Third, when the police removed Mr. Floyd from their car and place him face down on the street, kneeling on his back, legs, and neck, he told them repeatedly that he could not breath. He even asked if the cop kneeling on his neck would take his knee away. The cop said he would if Mr. Floyd would comply and get into the car. Mr. Floyd said, “I will.” The cop repeated the instruction, and Mr. Floyd answered that he couldn’t move—quite obviously because the three cops were pinning him in place.

Fourth, when Mr. Floyd at last lost consciousness and the cops called for medical attention, no one gave the man CPR.

The point here is this: the incident was not a matter of black and white; not even cops against African-Americans. Rather, these officers do not appear to know right from wrong. Who would hear a man say he can’t breath, to please release the pressure being applied (yes, at one point Mr. Floyd used the word please), to actually lose consciousness, and DO NOTHING?

Perhaps those officers were blinded by hatred or prejudice. Perhaps they were exerting their dominance just because they could. But does anyone, anywhere, think what they did was right? That it was justified?

At no time were their own lives in danger. Clearly they understood the complaint against this man was that he had committed a non-violent crime. In many states this offense would be a petty misdemeanor and would receive nothing more than a citation. Was he drunk? Hard to say from the video. Certainly the 9-1-1 caller identified him as drunk, so that’s what the police expected. Was he disorderly? Not really. Not until he was instructed to get into the police vehicle. Supposedly he said he was claustrophobic. The cops tried to force him inside, and something must have happened that the film didn’t capture, because the next piece of footage shows Mr. Floyd face down.

The cops, all three directly involved in applying force to Mr. Floyd, seem to have created a mountain over a molehill. Was this because Mr. Floyd was black? Or did they simply not know right from wrong?

Right from wrong includes assuming a person is guilty because of his skin color. But it also includes a lack of compassion when someone repeatedly says he can’t breath and it’s within your power to help him breath. It includes withholding medical attention when you are a trained person who can apply your knowledge and ability to save someone’s life. Anyone’s life.

I don’t care if the person is green or purple, it’s not right to ignore someone’s calls for help or to refuse medical attention. It’s not OK. It’s never OK.

Clearly, Los Angeles has had our own experiences of inappropriate police force against someone they were trying to arrest. A lot of changes have resulted, including tools and training to help officers use non-lethal means to bring a suspect under control.

But I have to wonder if the bottom line has been lost among our law enforcement personnel—people need to be treated as people.

Yes, I understand, some are violent and dangerous. One stat I read said that 87.6% of police shootings were a result of an act to defend either their own lives or the lives of fellow citizens. There are also people who are drug-crazed. There are even folks who are mentally ill. In other words, there are situations that must be dealt with using extreme measures.

But somehow, it seems the officers involved with Mr. Floyd, lost a sense of what was right and what was wrong. Clearly, right to defend lives; wrong to apply deadly force against a non-violent person accused of a minor crime.

This should have been an easy call. There was something the officers could do that was right—actually a number of things come to mind.

Of course all the riots, the looting, the violence that has taken place since this incident, claims the motives of the officers was race. Was it? Would they have treated someone of a different race in some other way? We don’t know, but it assumes these officers, and others around the country where the protests are occurring, have one standard of right for the majority of the people in the US and a different standard for African-Americans.

The claim is that the assumption has been proven by the numbers of blacks who have died in confrontations with police, the number of incidents when African-Americans have been stopped without cause, and so on. But none pf these assumptions address the bottom line issue: doing right instead of doing wrong.

Racism is not right, but neither is abuse or bullying or taking advantage of power or position. Certainly ignoring people in need of help is not right.

How did we become a nation that would not collectively rise and condemn behavior which so devalues another’s life that the individual actually dies as a result of that treatment?

Published in: on June 3, 2020 at 12:40 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

2 Comments

  1. The problem is a lack of compassion. Those in positions of power are the most tempted to abandon compassion when they are the ones who should be demonstrating it the most. Fortunately, we need to show them what it looks like, such as when some peaceful protestors formed a line to protect the police from violent protestors. Those peaceful protestors were all black. That was the right thing to do because it demonstrated compassion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] American has continued to experience protests all over the country, and now protests have emerged all over the world because a white police officer and three others (one Asian, but I’m not sure of the ethnicity of the other two) were involved in the death of an African American accused of a misdemeanor. I covered the details of the tragedy in an earlier post. […]

    Like


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: