The Murder of George Floyd – Minimization

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin has aroused a range of emotions across the country. Some are sympathetic, some are enraged, some are defensive, and inexplicably…some are in outright denial. As it took me some time to carefully research and consider the facts before writing this post, it will be broken up into a series.

Victim-blaming

I’ve seen far too many people resort to victim-blaming to minimize what happened. It does not matter who George Floyd was, what his criminal history was, what drugs were in his system, and the reasons for his arrest. None of these things are the least bit relevant. Anyone making that claim is using a red herring logical fallacy. I’ve seen memes and commentators attempting to make that same point. As an example, Candace Owens went on a long rant about attacking George Floyd’s character which was brilliantly deconstructed by Larry Sharpe. 1 Larry Sharpe Discusses Candace Owen's recent video on George Floyd
https://youtu.be/kBEbOfTzoIY
Nobody is making George Floyd out to be a “hero” but he has become the face of a cause.

The fact of the matter is that law enforcement has a duty to the care and well-being of an individual in custody.2U.S. Code § 242 Title 18 - Deprivation of rights under color of law
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/242
3Graham vs. Connor
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_v._Connor
Make no mistake, Floyd was in custody. He was lying prone while handcuffed. If he was resisting at some point off-camera (and I’ve seen and heard nothing that indicates he was), it’s pretty clear he had stopped. You simply cannot defend a police officer kneeling on a man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds by stating that the victim was not an upstanding citizen. He was a human being, a U.S. Citizen and at a minimum was entitled to due process for his alleged crime.

Unarmed White Individuals killed by law enforcement

The other common red herring I’d like to address are the posts, memes, and commentaries about unarmed white men being killed by law enforcement as a way to minimize the racial component and the BLM movement. Typically, these posts like to point out that people did not protest or riot (SIDE NOTE: Protesters are not rioters) over the deaths of unarmed white individuals (like Duncan Lemp, Daniel Shaver, Tony Timpa, and Kelly Thomas) at the hands of law enforcement. Well gee America, how noble of you to remain silent while your unarmed white brothers are killed by law enforcement. Where was your outrage when these men were killed at the hands of law enforcement? Where are the posts pointing out their criminal histories? Are you trying to say you didn’t care about those deaths but only care now to bring them to everyone’s attention because…”All Lives Matter.” Outside of civil libertarians, nobody else was showing outrage or concern that unarmed citizens have been and are being killed by law enforcement.

Missing the Point

All of these fallacious arguments miss the point. We should ALL be outraged when ANY individual dies at the hands of law enforcement while unarmed. Their criminal histories do not matter. Whatever drugs are alcohol they were on do not matter. More disturbing is the fact that 20% of all fatal encounters with police involve unarmed citizens.

Table 1 (see chart below) provides descriptive information of the agency sample and the sample of fatalities. Our samples reveal that a fifth (20%) of all fatalities were of unarmed individuals (column 3), and that they were committed by approximately 9 percent of the (law enforcement) agencies in our sample (column 1).

“Race, Gender and the Contexts of Unarmed Fatal Interactions with Police” Johnson Jr, Gilbert, Ibrahim4RACE, GENDER, AND THE CONTEXTS OF UNARMED FATAL INTERACTIONS WITH POLICE
Odis Johnson, Jr., PhD, Keon Gilbert Dr. PH, Habiba Ibrahim, PhD
https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/sites.wustl.edu/dist/b/1205/files/2018/02/Race-Gender-and-Unarmed-1y6zo9a.pdf

The first step in solving any problem is admitting there is a problem. Resorting to logical fallacies to minimize the problem is not going to solve a thing. At some point Americans need to come to terms with the facts on fatal police interactions. In my next post I’ll address the racial component and if there is systemic racism in law enforcement.

Part II

Citations
1 Larry Sharpe Discusses Candace Owen's recent video on George Floyd https://youtu.be/kBEbOfTzoIY
2 U.S. Code § 242 Title 18 - Deprivation of rights under color of law https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/242
3 Graham vs. Connor https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_v._Connor
4 RACE, GENDER, AND THE CONTEXTS OF UNARMED FATAL INTERACTIONS WITH POLICE Odis Johnson, Jr., PhD, Keon Gilbert Dr. PH, Habiba Ibrahim, PhD https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/sites.wustl.edu/dist/b/1205/files/2018/02/Race-Gender-and-Unarmed-1y6zo9a.pdf