From the Desk of Susan Townley
As a rule, I cheer for the defense in a trial. This time I am rooting for the prosecutor. I find the lawyer who is defending Chauvin so infuriating that I almost feel sorry for Chauvin. If Chauvin gets off, it will not be because he had the better lawyer. It won’t be because he raised doubt it will be because he stirred up bigotry.
As a small White child I first encountered what racial hatred can achieve one Sunday morning when I studied a stack of photographs of the survivors of German concentration camps. I saw the piles of bones covered in flesh of the people who did not survive the Holocaust. Not long after, newspapers, magazines, and the television revealed the horror of American racism.
Unlike the photographs that horrified and enlightened me that were still shots, on television I saw live scenes of the savage ways in which people, who looked like me, were trying to prevent Black children, who were about my size, from going to school. I will never forget how ugly the faces of the Whites were when they were contorted by hatred and rage. My memory is filled with an endless stream of White savagery upon Black Americans.
The defense implies that George Floyd was not a man, but was an enormous beast. The police officers who stood there enabled Derek Chauvin as he murdered George Floyd by preventing the crowd from going to George’s aid. To prevent the crowd that witnessed the murder from moving to help George Floyd, officers threatened them with tear gas.
The defense repeatedly alludes to the fact that the “crowd,” which, in fact was a small dignified group who did not abandon Floyd and witnessed his agony of his death. Some in the group called Chauvin names. The names were trying to make him aware of what he was achieving. Not only did his fellow officers threaten those who called Chauvin names, but they were acting as if they were in one accord with him.
To me, the willingness of the powerless, loving crowd to stand and witness Floyd’s death transformed it to the equivalent of a crucifixion.