It was a vicious public lynching, except the policeman used his knee instead of a noose to squeeze the life out of George Floyd as three cops stood there and watched.
That cruel cold-blooded murder on a Minneapolis street unleashed outrage and demonstrations worldwide and rightfully so. These murders of black boys and men, often by police, have been going on for many decades. And thankfully, people of every color are demanding they stop. Enough is enough!
What is doubly cruel is the lack of justice or accountability. Almost never do such murders lead to convictions (or even arrests) for the perpetrators. Meantime, blacks hold their breaths in anxiety and fear, wondering, “Will it be my son next time? Husband? Brother? Uncle? That kid down the block?”
The four policemen involved in Floyd’s murder have been arrested and charged. But will they be convicted? That is always the big question.
Since the Civil War Era, there have been 4,400 lynchings of blacks in America, and those are only the documented ones. There have likely been many more than that carried out, unrecorded, in the dead of night. Lynchings were just one form of psychological terror meant to underline the delusion of white supremacy and to keep uppity “Negroes” in their place as third-class underlings in the American South and, not to forget, in the systemic racist-rigged socio-economic structures of the North. At one time there were more Ku Klux Klan goons in the North than the South.
In Duluth on June 15, 1920, black workers in a traveling circus were accused of raping a young woman, even though a doctor found no physical evidence of rape. A mob of more than 1,000 people stormed the jail in Duluth, grabbed the suspects and tried them in a hastily arranged kangaroo court. Then the furious mob beat them and lynched three of them from a lamppost one block away. Photos were taken and the ghastly images later sold as postcards. Three white men were convicted of rioting, but nobody was prosecuted for the murders.
In the South, under Jim Crow laws, lynchings were not even considered punishable crimes. They were just, oh well, something that happened as retribution for blacks’ alleged crimes but most often for getting “uppity” and daring to challenge self-proclaimed white superiority. In many cases, the victims were accused of verbal or physical assaults against white women, even though the overwhelming number of such accusations were determined to be completely unfounded. And of course the accused weren’t formally charged or tried in court – just hauled off, sometimes hideously tortured (beaten, castrated, burned) and then, still alive in agony, hung from a tree to die. Sometimes, the lynchings attracted crowds of whites who found such savagery “entertaining.”
Those kinds of atrocities were perpetrated with impunity against blacks for hundreds of years during the long brutal history of slavery, racism and oppression.
In recent times, that lynching mentality has extended to rogue cops itching to over-react with violent force when a black man is “suspected” of anything, even the most minor of infractions, or just because that “suspicious” black man happens to be walking, jogging or driving down a path or a roadway. The lynching mentality is a toxic legacy that gets lodged like a vicious infection in the heads of some people.
But as we condemn the “bad cops,” let’s be quick to remind ourselves of the overwhelming number of good law-enforcement employees who put their lives on the line every day and night to protect us and to preserve the public peace. So many of them have been killed in the line of duty.
These massive protests, involving people of all ages and every color, are admirable. But sad to say, there is a grave danger that these passionate people, so dedicated to justice for all, will spread Covid-19 infections after their up-close interactions during marches and rallies.
The protests should probably end for now; they have been effective, powerful expressions of the need for immediate reforms. Let’s keep expressing our collective outrage in other ways; let’s demand prohibitions on the use of potentially lethal police restraint of suspects (such as choking), and let’s insist such murders do not go unpunished or forgotten. It’s time for action. Legislators, are you listening?
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.