What we witnessed was a lynching. That’s part of the reason to put it in a historical context. It was a public message to people that what Officer Chauvin was doing was okay and you might be next.Phillip Atiba Goff – policingequity.org
The quote is from this episode of The Rachel Maddow Show:
Professor Goff’s statement echoes what I took away from the brief bits of the nine minute video of Officer Chauvin killing George Floyd that I could make myself watch. Officer Chauvin was acting the part of a terrorist, instructing his audience on the subject of what happens when law enforcement decides to kill a black person. I can kill him and I can kill you. That is what Officer Chauvin is saying.
Monday’s show led off with a visitation on the 100th anniversary of the massacre in Tulsa. If you haven’t heard the story, it is worth giving this six minute video a chance to tell you about it:
It is also worth remembering in the time and place that we find ourselves in today, that the police in America were founded from the slave patrols that were instituted during the years when slavery was a part of life in the United States:
…this system of essentially tracking black people’s movements to control them needed a similar kind of armed and/or empowered law enforcement constituency. So on one hand, you do have the growth of a formal bureaucratic nuts-and-bolts police system that emerges by the late 1860s, 1870s. You know, prisons are being remodeled or expanded and built. Prison farms are beginning to open. I say all that to say because the South had a very anemic infrastructure when it came to criminal justice by a very stark contrast to northern states. And one of the things that it doesn’t really have is it doesn’t have a formal professional police force like – certainly like big cities from Boston to New York, Philadelphia, the old colonial cities, now essentially industrial, thriving, modern places by the 1870s and 1880s. And so what does the South do? Well, Southern leaders empower vigilante groups to do a lot of the day-to-day surveillance and policing of black people, and out of that, particularly in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan is born in Pulaski, Tenn.npr.org
In the South the police force is directly descended from the KKK and slave patrols. In the North the history is different, but just slightly different. The police in those areas still establish a racial hierarchy with black and brown people at the bottom of the social ladder, they just didn’t do it because of slavery. This is the racial basis for American policing. The history that all Americans have to accept and deal with.
I liked Six Flags Over Texas back when I was a teenager and into amusement parks. I could appreciate the history of the six flags that flew over Texas that was the reference for the name, but I always knew that one of those six flags was a flag of rebels and white nationalists. The amusement park that started in Texas is too embarrassed to fly the rebel flag in places where they own parks and the rebel flag never actually flew, so they have repurposed the six flags to be some other six flags and who really cares now anyway? I’m sympathetic to their corporate problem and really don’t see why they should have to fly flags in the first place other than that they put it in their name. Apparently some people didn’t learn their history and now want to pretend it wasn’t real history. They want to force Six Flags to fly the rebel flag even though the name and the flag were specific to Texas. These are facts folks.
There are plaques up in the Texas capitol that claim that the Confederacy wasn’t based on preserving slavery, which is false. Those plaques as well as most of the statues and monuments across the South date back to various times when white nationalism was in power and acted to whitewash history, giving themselves honor that they never deserved in the first place. They used their authority to compel the schools to muddy history in the textbooks, teaching kids falsehoods that could be disproved by doing basic research on the subject of the history of the succession movement and of the racist history of the American continent under European dominance and then United States dominance.
What has become clear to me over the years since I first started paying attention to this subject is that a lot of people have been fed lies for a lot of their lives; and they are happy to go on believing the comforting lies that they were told as children. It’s time to grow up now. It’s time to embrace the truth as it transpired through history, and to make our way forward with a firm grasp on the truth. Like the confederate monuments that dot our landscape, each town square that ever held a lynching party should be required to host a token from this memorial:
…and Derek Chauvin should be forced to wear one around his neck for the rest of his life. He is the personification of the racist history of the American police system. It is long past time to rewrite that system. At least the jury did find him guilty. That is a step in the right direction.
I cannot help but think of the famous image of Deputy Sheriff Cecil Ray Price and Sheriff Laurence A. Rainey laughing at a hearing after their arraignment following the murder of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1964.
Price and Rainey thought it was funny when they were arraigned along with 16 of their friends—not for murder, because Mississippi refused to bring charges, but for conspiracy and violating the civil rights of the murdered men, both federal offenses. And why shouldn’t they think it was all a joke? The jury was all white and, after all, they were law enforcement officers.heathercoxrichardson.substack.com