Since the writing of my original article, much additional information has been revealed about this incident, including the fact that George Floyd had what some medical professionals have deemed to be a potentially lethal dose of illegal drugs in his system at the time of his death. I am still horrified about how George Floyd was treated by police officers and feel that they should be punished for not seeking medical attention for Mr. Floyd and for using a restraining method which likely contributed to his death (a restraint method that it appears their department authorized for use). I mourn the death of this man. It is quite likely that, if the police had sought medical attention for him and/or used a more humane method of restraint, Mr. Floyd would be alive today.
But there is even more to the story. There is an aspect of this event that served to escalate the response of the public across the nation, fueling riots, and helping to cause even more needless death. Because of the color of Mr. Floyd’s skin, this actions of the police were immediately labeled as racially motivated.
I can completely understand why many people jumped to the conclusion that the actions of the police were racially motivated. Our nation has had a long and sordid history of racism—against people of color in particular. And, because of that history, it’s easy to assume that when a white police officer is involved in the death of a black man that it is racially motivated. But if we want the truth, we need to be able to take a step back and objectively look at the event critically in the least-biased way that we can.
What happened in this case on a national level was that the color of a person’s skin was taken as proof-positive that his behavior was racially motivated. That’s one of the things that Martin Luther King, Jr. fought against—racial bias that makes a judgment about a man simply because of the color of his skin. It is bias like this that helps perpetuate racism in this country, racism against blacks as well as racism against whites and all other people.
As I examined what was known after the first several days following George Floyd’s death, I didn’t find any hard evidence presented by law enforcement or the news media indicating his death was, in any way, motivated by racist beliefs on the part of the police involved in the incident. As of this writing, I believe that is still the case.
If Derek Chauvin was a member of the KKK, was a known racist who regularly wrote racially motivated hate-speech on social media, or was otherwise known to have racist beliefs against black people, none of this was revealed by the media or law enforcement in the days after the incident, as far as I am aware. In short, no evidence was presented to substantiate the charge that this incident was racially motivated.
I believe one of the primary things that we legitimately need to be addressing in the wake of George Floyd’s death is a national culture of excessive police brutality against the public—which affects all races. Making George Floyd’s death about racism is diverting our focus from the real atrocity of ever-increasing use of excessive and unwarranted police brutality against the public they are sworn to protect. Here is an excellent article on this issue by constitutional attorney John Whitehead concerning how the George Floyd murder is not about racism, but about police brutality.