George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a policeman on the Minneapolis force, on Thursday, May 25 2020. I say murdered not because Mr. Chauvin has been proven guilty of such, but because his intent was clear and blatant on video. I have judged him guilty. Thankfully, my judgement holds no kettle to what happens to him. I’m not supposed to judge, I’m supposed to leave that to God.
I also judged the looters in the ensuing riots. Back in 2014, I had a lot to say about the looters in Ferguson, MO after the murder of Michael Brown. This time around however, I want to take a different approach. I’m not going to blame the looters, or even those who burned down buildings. I’ll leave that to God. Instead, I want to focus on how I changed my thoughts.
Trevor Noah Woke Me
When I look into news stories, I typically look for both sides of a story. Essentially, a “Republican” version and a “Democratic” one. Even so, Noah Trevor is not usually somebody I go to for information. I don’t like how he finds any possible angle to make Trump look bad, namely because I don’t believe he would do the same to somebody he agrees with. However, after watching the far less famous YouTuber/rapper Knox Hill’s video about the Minneapolis situation, someone in the comments mentioned Mr. Noah’s video on the same topic.
What I found in Mr. Noah’s video was a bewildered man attempting to piece together how this could happen. Not bewildered over words or logic. No, this was a funny man not being funny. He wasn’t blaming anybody except for Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. While he mentioned the Amy Cooper situation as a domino, he squarely kept the conversation on why the riots and looting in Minneapolis are happening.
He doesn’t mock white people, nor belittle white people attempting to understand what is going on. This video is the first time I saw him take off the filter of “comedian” and just be true, raw, and honest in his opinions. I respect that, and I appreciate not being made fun of in the process.
Changing My Eye
I cannot change the fact that I am white, nor that I grew up in the Midwest with a specific set of tenets on how life should be lived. What I can do, what I have tried to do, is understand people who grew up different from me. I’ve failed at times, my core tenets so strong and my life so incredibly different that it is difficult to reframe my mind’s eye.
Thanks to Mr. Noah, the tool I needed for that reframing is now available. I’m looking at this situation through the lens of the societal contract we are all supposed to live by. I don’t agree with the rioters, looters, or arsonists, but at least I can understand what leads them into these acts. George Floyd was murdered, on video, by a policeman meant to serve and protect the populace. That act tore the contract into tiny, unreadable bits and sent a big middle finger to a people historically looked down on in this nation. If those in power are willing to tear up the contract, what do we really expect those being dismissed to do with it?
I know that every time this happens, and black people get angry, white people turn around and seem surprised by the anger. The truth is, we are surprised. We don’t know the depths of betrayal you experience, as a whole, every time this happens. We know George Floyd’s death isn’t right, but we have trouble understanding how these events seem to affect everyone across the country. That probably seems naïve, but please understand that generally, white people don’t live in extended communities. Personally, my circle (in town) includes ONE of my neighbors, my mother, sister, her husband, my aunt, my cousin, and of course those who live under my roof. We weren’t raised to be part of the greater community so much as we were taught to watch out for blood.
Of course we have empathy, we feel the pain caused by death, especially an unnecessary one. We’re brought up to have sympathy for George Floyd’s family and friends, and we absolutely do. But until we are taught how to reframe his death as an extension of harassment and cruelty that happens across the country, we just don’t get it.
It doesn’t help that there are indeed racist men and women out there. I don’t know if it’s a minority of us, I don’t have the science to back that claim. But the greater number of white people *I* know are not…not on purpose. We’re learning, and I can only ask that you continue to be patient as we learn to reframe our perspective from our own social structures to those which you live by. It’s not easy. Patience is not easy. I understand that. But it is required. We have to be open and receptive to each other, meaning making room in our lives to understand others. Unfortunately, we have a ways to go yet.