I knew I had to write about the George Floyd/Derek Chauvin verdict today, but I was afraid.
It was the right verdict. That was obvious from the video. Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. It should never have happened.
But I was afraid of the trolls who will inevitably flood my comments with hate.
And I was afraid, too, that as an old white man, I don’t have the standing to say anything.
But take note:
The reason there was a trial is because Darnella Frazier, a 17-year-old, had the courage to film what happened.
The reason that Chauvin was convicted is that police experts testified against him. You rarely see that. These police knew when policing is done wrong, and they said so, in public.
The reason that George Floyd is dead is not just because of Derek Chauvin’s indifference to whether he was killing Floyd, but because his fellow officers on the scene did nothing while he was killing a man.
You may think you can’t stop things like this from happening.
But here’s what you can do.
If you see a police encounter, bear witness. Record it. More video means more transparency. If Darnella Frazier could do it, you can do it. The reason we are all asking so many questions now is because of all the video.
If you are working with police who you are concerned are doing the wrong thing, talk with them. If you are a policeman or policewoman and this is your fellow officer, is this how you want the public to think of you? In private, have the conversation.
And if you are on the front lines of policing, consider your own behavior. All of us have done things in our lives and our careers that we regret. If you’re honest with yourself, just like the rest of us, you have probably have made some decisions that, in retrospect, you wonder about. Keep wondering. There is no requirement that you keep doing the job exactly as you have been. Your decisions are life-and-death, not just for you and your fellow officers, but for everyone you encounter.
All of these things take courage. We need that courage now, if we are to survive as a whole society.
In a battle between police and minorities, there is no winner. There is only bloodshed and suspicion and hate.
I have no interest in taking sides. There will always be police. There will always be criminals. There will always be bad choices and bias and hate.
But maybe, after today, we can begin to find ways to live our lives and do our jobs without retreating to armed camps and killing each other. Maybe if there is more video and police can be convicted and the political winds shift, some things will change.
I’m still afraid. But I can’t just turn away. Can you?