WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Wednesday urged Congress to pass a police reform bill in the name of George Floyd - a Black man killed under the knee of a white police officer - by the anniversary of his death on May 25. Biden, a Democrat, told a joint session of Congress the reform was broadly supported by the American people, and that he knew Republicans were "engaged in productive discussions" with Democrats. "We need to work together to find a consensus," Biden said. "Let's get it done next month, by the first anniversary of George Floyd's death." The Democratic presiden...
It's Wednesday morning. I sign into the eighth one-on-one student videoconference but immediately see that, on this call, with this cherished student, there's no oxygen for talking about the final, mundane details of spring semester. The young Black woman looking at me through the computer screen is in almost unspeakable pain.
We are meeting less than 24 hours after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts for the murder last May of George Floyd. Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes. I always try to remember to include that because, in my experience, young people can't forget it, and neither should we. It's the very least we can do for Floyd and for Darnella Frazier, the brave 17-year-old Black girl who held up her phone that day and bore witness to the last minutes of his life. It's hard for me to believe a person can watch even part of her ten-minute video and not feel something break inside.
The Chauvin verdict is an accountability, but it is not justice, my student says, and I agree. Justice would mean George Floyd was still alive and able to hold his 6-year-old daughter Gianna in his arms.
But this Wednesday morning is worse, so much worse, because minutes before the Chauvin verdict was announced, a 16-year-old Black girl named Ma'Khia Bryant was shot and killed in the street by a white police officer in Columbus, Ohio. An investigation is pending, but surely, I don't have to tell you how that sounds to my student less than 24 hours later.
It's too much on top of more than one can bear. My student, this talented and spirited young woman who has been such a fierce presence in my class, has no energy left to talk about what's due by the end of the semester. She is the first of several Black women, current and former students, who tell me that day, without hesitation or doubt, "That girl could be me."
I am a white woman who has never had a minute's worry that the color of my skin would lead to the cause of my death. What is my role in this moment as a professor, a colleague, a friend?
I try to take guidance from Black friends, students and colleagues. The instruction is pretty simple: Shut up. For the sake of all that is right and holy, just shut up for a while and listen. To ignore their pain is to magnify our indifference, and filling this space with our words, our feelings, is just another way to say, "I don't see you."
If your daily life includes no Black friends, colleagues or neighbors, it is by choice. You can argue your "very good reasons" all you want. No one believes you, even if they like you. Try explaining, for example, how your all-white neighborhood reflects your commitment to racial equality. I speak from shameful experience. When you don't want to tell people where you live, it's time to move.
There is one space in which white Americans should always be outspoken allies of Black people, and that is in the company of other white people. So often, our most uncomfortable moments are the most important ones.
For all of my 19 years as a columnist, there has been no rival for the hate mail about racism from people who look like me. The message, sometimes cloaked in Scripture but often just raw with rage, is always the same: You have betrayed your people.
If your primary requirement for love or camaraderie with another human being is a matching skin tone, your world is but a thimble bobbing on a wondrous sea. My mother would want me to pray for you, just as many of you claim to be praying for me. She'd want me to mean it, though, so I keep trying.
It's Thursday evening now, and my mind is full of the thoughts my students have bravely shared in this sad week of never-ending pain. I am slowed by the weight of their words, struggling to imagine what it is like to be them right now.
I do not know because I cannot know, in this whiteness of being. But for them, I will keep trying.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. She is also the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, The Daughters of Erietown. To find out more about Connie Schultz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com
Reprinted with permission from Roll Call
Remember when three Black women proclaimed that Black Lives Matter? It was in 2013 after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the fatal shooting of unarmed Black teen Trayvon Martin in Florida. It seemed so essential and overdue for Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi to found a movement to defiantly claim what America had too often denied.
Yet it was controversial. The willfully blind countered with "All Lives Matter," as though saying that would make it so. Then, there were suggestions: "Don't you think it would be less divisive if the signs read 'Black Lives Matter, Too?'"
In all honesty, anyone who did not get it was not going to with the addition of one three-letter word. But then the world witnessed Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin press his knee on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds. That the doubters needed video evidence was infuriating, when Black and brown Americans had been bearing witness for hundreds of years. But communities craving visibility and justice welcomed the opened eyes and protests by all ages and races.
It was certainly never a sure thing that Chauvin would be found guilty on all murder and manslaughter charges, as he was. There was also video of the killings of Philando Castile in Minnesota in 2016 and Walter Scott in South Carolina in 2015. Yet in Castile's case, police officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty. And in Scott's case, after the first prosecution ended in a hung jury, it took a federal prosecution to gain a plea from former police officer Michael Slager — despite the evidence a brave citizen recorded of Slager shooting Scott in the back, taking aim while standing 15 to 20 feet away, and then throwing his Taser down to concoct a false story for his department to swallow and regurgitate as truth. (Another bit of mild relief this week as Slager's 20-year sentence was upheld.)
No wonder so many were holding our collective breath.
It took the shock and trauma of Floyd's torture and murder in broad daylight, the look on the face of a white police officer showing the crowd that he was in charge, and a prosecution that cared enough to put in the work to get a conviction. The defense lawyer's characterization of Floyd as at once superhuman, able to rise up after he stopped breathing, yet so weak he literally dropped dead from preexisting conditions, and the crowd as frightening when they were the ones helplessly pleading with Chauvin, the man with the gun and the mace, fell flat this time.
In a startling change, police testified against one of their own, as if to say, it's him, not us. An acquittal for Chauvin would have truly proved police can get away with anything.
But the marches and protests will continue because it is about more than one trial and one officer. The case of Daunte Wright, shot and killed during what started as a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, as the Chauvin trial was going on, was a reminder of that. And at those Black Lives Matter marches, a militarized presence by police contrasted with their light hand when confronted by anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and insurrectionists anxious to overturn the results of a free and fair election.
Peaceful civil rights activists now praised as secular saints by liberals and conservatives alike — a litany that includes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and Fannie Lou Hamer — were once met with state-sanctioned violence. Some scenes in the present, at protests for justice, resemble the images from then, with tear gas lingering in the air and snipers on roofs.
It's true the Biden administration's Department of Justice seems to be taking that word "justice" seriously. Attorney General Merrick Garland is rescinding the ban on consent decrees that monitored local police departments, agreements President Donald Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions deemed an infringement. Just this week, Garland announced a Justice Department probe into the practices and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department.
In my home state of Maryland, the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill that repealed the state's powerful Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights. Now Maryland has established new use-of-force rules, among other provisions on investigations and punishment, and civilians can weigh in.
Yet, in Florida, in what can only be described as a retreat to the bad old days, Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill brazenly targeting racial justice protesters that punishes protest itself with felony charges. At the signing, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd warned newcomers to the state: "Don't register to vote and vote the stupid way they did up north and get what they got."
Ah, Florida. Come for the voter suppression, get arrested at a protest as a bonus.
Even after Chauvin's conviction, there does not seem to be much enthusiasm from Senate Republicans for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, though polls suggest public support for provisions such as bans on chokeholds, limits on no-knock warrants, and data collection that would prevent bad police officers from moving to different jurisdictions without leaving a trail.
Anyone who was paying attention knows that Chauvin was one ten-minute video taken by a stalwart 17-year-old away from returning to his beat, charged up on new resentments.
A Black life may have mattered, this time. But many of us have yet to exhale.
Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.
We've all wondered whether Fox News Channel's resident white supremacist Tucker Carlson is actually a human being, but the fascistic host's "villain" laugh is really troubling Jimmy Kimmel.
"What the hell was that?" asked Kimmel about the Carlson laugh (at about 7:30). "It's like there's a little girl trapped in his head, right? He laughs like the villain in the movie who realizes James Bond just put the bomb back on him and he's about to explode."
Then Kimmel played the video again. "What human makes a sound like that?"
The answer: They don't. Jimmy has funny news about the MyPillow guy and a Chris Christie snap, too. Click and cackle!
MyPillow Mike is Booked on Kimmel, Tucker Carlson's Creepy Laugh & Chris Christie for Prez www.youtube.com
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