There are so many aspects of the killing of George Floyd and its increasingly violent aftermath that it’s difficult to know where, and whether, to begin. Here I sit, a child of extreme white privilege, in an area populated by a large percentage of people just like me, and I’m not sure it’s a good look for me to pass judgment on other people’s anger.
[To be very clear, we should all be extremely angry about the way a fellow human being, one who appears not to have been guilty of any crime other than his skin color, was crushed to death on a street in Minnesota, by an implacable cop with a history of complaints about his methodologies, and it is incumbent on every last one of us to demand justice not just for George Floyd but for all like him who have come before and, sadly, are likely to come after.]
But as someone white and privileged, there is an aspect of this I feel entitled to comment on, and so far it’s getting lost in a lot of other noise. I am speaking, as I so often do in this allegedly non-political space, of the very white and overly privileged president.
As someone with the attention span of a gnat and the temperament of the spoiled kindergartner he never grew beyond, he is once again (always) attempting to act without any thought, signing a flaccid executive order to shut down Twitter because the company that gives him way too much latitude and oxygen finally had the audacity to suggest two of his Tweets (regarding false claims of mail-in-ballot fraud) deserved to be fact-checked.
In the irony that always escapes him, the president took to Twitter to complain about this and everything else that offends him, and that seems, once again, to be the focus of everyone’s attention, that he’s mad at Twitter and trying to make it go away, apparently oblivious to the part where that would take his fueled platform with it.
Last night, in Tweets that may have since been deleted, or at least cleaned up by whoever it is with the unenviable task of damage control at the White House, the president, very white and very privileged, proclaimed interest in gaining justice for Mr. Floyd while simultaneously disavowing any support for the “THUGS” out in the streets protesting and managing, in the same small sentence, to offer a solution: shoot them.
Newscaster Gayle King, on CBS, has struggled visibly, and movingly, with this story all week, “as the daughter of a black man and the mother of a black man.” This morning she said she spoke with a 20-something black woman who told her that rioting and looting are the new, better way to protest, because the peaceful protests of the Civil Rights movement, which are remembered as violent for the way white people responded to them, clearly haven’t had enough effect.
Ms. King said she disagrees with this young woman, and on my own I add that we might point to her selective study of history that ignores other times, such as the Watts riots and the aftermath of Rodney King, where violence also reigned. I am going to disagree with this young woman as well, but again, I am sitting in a vastly different place so this may not be my place to say.
But in my spirit of non-violence, I say it is inappropriate for the president in name only of the United States to once again, as he does so very often, use Twitter to encourage violence against people of color.
And I am outraged, more than usual, and saddened that more people aren’t noticing this small but ultimately very large aspect of this story.
When pretend Nazis with real hate gathered in Charlottesville, Va., to speak their hateful screed, and counter-protestors showed up, one of the supremacists took it upon himself to drive his car at high speed into the crowd of counter-protestors, wounding people and killing a woman in her 20s.
Instead of denouncing this, or any of the other actions by the rather cowardly bunch of neos, the president took to Twitter to assure us that there are two sides to every story, and there were some “very fine people” on both sides of the conflict.
And when unfocused “patriots” arrived on the steps of Michigan’s capitol recently, brandishing both Nazi flags and posters declaiming the governor as a Nazi, Confederate flags, “Liberty” flags, anti-Bill Gates posters, faux military camouflage and guns, lots of guns, the president applauded, via Twitter, these “very good people.”
But now that a black man has been crushed to death on a public street for nothing more than an incorrect accusation of a falsified $20 bill — on the same day a birdwatcher in Central Park filmed a white woman working herself into a frenzy that he was attacking her, when what he did was calmly request she leash her dog as required by law — the president has decided that protestors need to be shot.
To be fair, he did say “looters,” but let’s just review: white supremacists running cars at high speed into a more diverse crowd = very fine. Angry, mostly white people, waving guns and flags of hate while threatening an elected official with weaponry = very good. Predominantly black people, pushed one too many times in a city where the police motto of recent years seems to be “kill first, ask questions later” = will be shot.
This is America at its ugliest, and it is coming from the highest office of the land. This should not be endured, must not be tolerated, and must come to an end. This man, who doesn’t even deserve that much of a title, must be shouted down, and every last one of us must do our part. This is not who we should be as a people, but as long as we allow this to go on, it is who we are. And we should be ashamed.