Since 1619, when the White Lion docked in Jamestown, Virginia and two dozen captive Africans from south-western Africa’s Ndongo Kingdom stepped forth, white supremacy has stubbornly resisted rationality.
African-Americans unmistakably recognise the executioner police officer Derek Chauvin’s countenance as the familiar scowl of white supremacy. “You are inferior,” it snarls. “How dare you challenge that? I can take your very life. I control your body, your fate, and your very existence. You are powerless to stop me.”
Violent opportunists using peaceful protests as cover to loot property is sickening. But that is negligible against vision of police brutalising unarmed, peaceful protesters.
I recognise this arrogant leer on the face of the white supremacist occupying the White House. It was there in 2017 when he called black athletes kneeling during the pre-game playing of the national anthem, “sons of bitches”. It’s there as he verbally abuses black female news reporters asking him challenging questions.
African-American author Ta-Nehisi Coates poignantly captures black distrust of law enforcement, in his memoir, Between the World and Me: “…the police reflect America in all of its will and fear.”
I now teach this book to Year 11 students at a private San Francisco high school, whose population is mostly white and economically privileged. There is no clearer illustration of Coates’s words than vision of Floyd’s murder.
Justice may soon be coming. On Thursday, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office upgraded murder charges against Chauvin from third-degree to second-degree, which carries a maximum 40-year sentence. It also charged the other three sacked officers connected to Floyd’s death – Alexander Keung, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao – with felony aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, whose maximum sentences are, respectively, 40 years and 10 years.
I’m rapt by millions of allies of all other colours and cultures worldwide, publicly demonstrating to make police and vigilante killings of black men, whether African-American, African immigrant – or, in Australian protests, Indigenous people – a human rights imperative.
Violent opportunists using peaceful protests as cover to loot property is sickening. But that is negligible against vision of police brutalising unarmed, peaceful protesters, including the killing of a Louisville, African-American restaurateur; the dragging of two Atlanta college students from their car and their resultant beating and tasing; the ramming of a group of New York protesters by a police ute; and the assaulting of myriad journalists, including a Washington, DC, Ch7 Sunrise crew.
Two weeks ago, I asked my Year 11 students to write an essay, after reading Coates’s book, whether African-American youth should envision a fearless or fearful future. I should have assigned them to ask any brother: what’s causing your insomnia?
Gil Griffin is a freelance writer and humanities teacher and assistant baseball coach at a private San Francisco high school.