I was horrified upon learning about how George Floyd was callously and needlessly murdered by police officers. I am encouraged that the murderers have been charged for the crimes they committed. I mourn the death of this man. He did nothing to deserve this.
But there is 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 crime was immediately labeled a crime motivated by racism.
I can completely understand why many people jumped to the conclusion that George Floyd’s murder was 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 murders a black man 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 murderer’s skin was taken as proof-positive that his crime 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 examine what was known after the first several days following George Floyd’s murder, I don’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 men who killed him. 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 murder, as far as I am aware. In short, no evidence was presented to substantiate the charge that this crime was racially motivated.
I believe one of the primary things that we legitimately need to be addressing in the wake of the George Floyd murder is a national culture of excessive police brutality against the public—which affects all races. Making the George Floyd murder 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.