A horrifying video has emerged of a black man George Floyd who died in Minneapolis after a police officer pinned him to the ground with his knee on the man’s neck for five minutes, even though the man was saying that he could not breathe and bystanders who recorded the incident said that the man had started bleeding from his nose.
The man in this case was unarmed but we know from past experience that the next stage in this case is for defenders of the police to investigate his past and publicize any negative facts that are unearthed in order to deflect attention away from the way he was treated.
Then we have the example of a white woman Amy Cooper calling the police on a bird watching black man Chris Cooper in New York’s Central Park who had reminded her that her dog was supposed to be on a leash in that area. She told the police on the phone that the man was threatening her life. Fortunately he had recorded the incident and the police did not take any action.
On the surface, this seems like a trivial case compared to what happened in Minneapolis. But it could have gone so badly wrong and the bird watcher could easily have been roughly handled, tasered, or even killed by the police as happened to the Minneapolis man. They could claim that his bird watching binoculars looked like a gun and thus caused them to view him as armed and dangerous. The woman in this case was taking advantage of the fact that black men can be accused of anything by white people, and the presumption is that they are guilty and the burden is on them to prove that they are innocent, something that they are often not even given the time to do. The way she said “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life” shows that she knew she was lying but was well aware of the privilege that comes with being white, that her version of events would be believed over his.
Zeba Blay writes about the pressure that black people constantly feel in such situations that happen frequently.
I’ve had to be intentional about remaining calm, deescalating the situation, making the other person — the person policing me — feel safe and reassured, in spite of the fact that in these interactions they’ve been perfectly fine and I’ve been the one made to feel unsafe and insecure.
The woman has since apologized saying “I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way.” Her employer, the finance company Franklin Templeton, has placed her on administrative leave and her dog has been returned to the rescue service she had got it from.
This is the daily experience of black people in the US.
UPDATE: The woman has been fired from her job.
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) May 26, 2020
FURTHER UPDATE: I heard from a friend who is a bird watcher that Chris Cooper, the bird watcher who had the police called on him, appears in a documentary about bird watching in Central Park.