George Floyd, Birdwatching and Emmett Till
So it's been 6 months since I watched the George Floyd video. 8 minutes and 46 seconds. It shook me. Hard. Still does.
I was amazed at how the officer looked right at the camera and did nothing. No empathy. No concern. Impassive. And the 3 officers who did nothing to stop it. Even more saddened at a system that would allow this to happen.
Let me be clear - I knew these things happened. I was not shocked to hear about yet another instance of a black person being the victim of police abuse. I was shocked to see it so well documented. Usually the videos are from afar or behind cover. Usually you cannot see the face of the officer or of the victim so clearly.
The video was clear and unwavering. The officer fully aware he was being filmed - looking straight into the camera. The onlookers relating to the officer George Floyd’s distress. The other 3 officers clearly and completely controlling Mr. Floyd. Mr. Floyd’s words and cries so clearly heard. The distress on his face so clearly visible. That is what was chilling.
Then I saw the video of Mr. Cooper being harassed while birdwatching in Central Park in New York City. The video was also clear. Mr. Cooper calmly requested the white lady put her dog on a leash as required by the signs which were clearly visible. She looks into the camera and asks him to stop filming. When he declines she then clearly lays out in stunning detail her course of action: she will call the police and tell them a black man is harassing her in the park - a standard and long standing trope. The obvious intent of this threat was to establish a power dynamic via a threat of police action. She then proceeds to carry out the threat and do exactly as she indicated. Step by step. When she seemingly does not get the reaction from the 911 operator she desires she escalates the charade. All the while Mr. Cooper does not move and calmly addresses her. His calm demeanor while facing the threat is admirable.
This situation has also happened before - we all know that. A white woman claiming distress at being harassed by a black man.
These two incidents happened on the same day: 5/25/2020.
It reminded me of a statement from Will Smith: “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed”. This has all been going on for centuries we are now only getting to see it on film. Being documented in real time.
Emmett Till was lynched on August 28, 1955. He was 14 years old. He was lynched for allegedly offending a white woman by whistling at her. The two men charged with his murder were acquitted. Emmett TIll’s mother held an open casket funeral to bring to light the horrors of lynching. It became a rallying point in the civil rights movement.
Later Carolyn Bryant - the lady in question - admitted to making up the entire story. Sounds strikingly familiar.
That was 65 years ago. We are still going through this. Except it is now being filmed. The Central Park video seemed astonishingly similar to situation at the grocery store where Emmett Till had allegedly whistled. The George Floyd video … you get the idea. Emmett Till’s mother only had still photographs to document the result of what happened to her son. We now have film showing the entire process that can create that result.
This is what people mean when we discuss systemic racism. A system is racially primed to be easily weaponized and once that weapon is armed it can easily go off - to tragic results.
The birdwatcher video documents how the system is weaponized. How a white person - in this case a woman - can create a situation and weaponize the system for racial purposes. The George Floyd video is the weaponization being utilized. These videos together are a perfect illustration of how Emmett Till was lynched. They show the complete process. Clearly. With no equivocation.
That is what I saw for the first time. I knew this could happen. But I had never seen the entire process documented so clearly.
Regardless of your position on policing, this dynamic has to change. The fact that a system can so easily be weaponized and racially manipulated needs to be recognized and changed.
I hope this helps. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.
All the best, Dave