Most police officers will never pull their guns on someone, much less shoot. But, when you read about rogue officers, they almost always have shootings in their past. Most recent case in point, Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin, badge number 1087, who was caught on camera with his knee on George Floyd, a black man who was crying out that he couldn’t breathe. Ultimately, Mr. Floyd died. Officer Chauvin was fired. Officer Chauvin has been involved in multiple shootings and yet—yet—was not fired, retrained, assigned to sensitivity and cultural classes.
In 1969, in my hometown, Alton, a young black man named Hilton Perry was shot in the back by two rogue policemen named Walkington and Ruyle, both of whom had long reputations as loose cannons and racists. Riots ensued at Alton High School, and the Board of Education offices were firebombed. Perry was paralyzed. He won a multi-million-dollar lawsuit, causing the City of Alton to impose a special property tax, to cover the damages. Years later, Hilton Perry died in surgery, never having received his award.
Walkington and Ruyle had fired their weapons at other suspects. In the Perry case, the boy was stopped on suspicion of shoplifting a pair of cheap cufflinks. In chasing Perry uphill on State Street, past the public library, the cops also shot an elderly lady walking her dog and the window of a beauty parlor, a bullet narrowly missing a customer.
Rogue cops. Derek Chauvin’s photo, showing him wearing a MAGA hat with the words “make whites great again,” is now going viral on the internet. So, here is yet another one of the deplorables in the “basket of deplorables,” a sick man, his disease being racism, passed to him in his childhood. Walkington and Ruyle were deplorables, and so are hundreds of other rogue cops who somehow get on major city police forces in spite of their naked racism.
Look at the photo of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Look at his face. His expression is orgasmic. He is having an adventure. I imagine him thinking, “I got one!” He has been fired, and today he may be thinking other thoughts.
Race. How are race and the current pandemic connected?
The obvious answer is the far worse effect of the virus on persons of color. But. The connection is science. In science, there is no such thing as race. Color is a result of tribes adapting to different environments, one result being skin tones appropriate to specific climates. There is one human specie—attention, co-called Europeans. You and I, and our friends and loved ones and ancestors and our friends and brother and sisters of color are descended from perhaps fifteen tribes of Africa.
Pandemic. Science has quickly and correctly identified the origin of this virus, tied to other, historical viruses such as HIV, and they have in common the deforestation of the planet and the emergence of viruses that were safely tucked away.
We are in the age of anti-science. In 2020, people still refer to evolution as a belief. Idiots stand in pulpits and command a virus to leave our bodies, and faithful people sitting in pews await miracles. Even as evolution is the greatest and only miracle, producing all life on earth from first, rudimentary living cells. A human being is a plant is water is a bird is an ape is sentient.
This ignorance has led straight to Officer Derek Chauvin and policemen Walkington and Ruyle, to Donald Trump, to selfish partiers on Lake of the Ozarks who were raised in ignorance, raised to believe they were white, a race of people that does not exist—except in poisoned hearts. Except in poisoned, devolved hearts. Our silence is taken by people such as they as approval.
Speak—or die. Die from a virus, from a riot, from the hands of the poverty stricken, or die in defense of our brothers and sisters. All brother and sisters. There were other options. Science, especially after the discovery of DNA, leading to the realization that we are one people, has proffered solutions over many decades. And we have ignored the solutions for decades.
Clearly, we are choosing death-by-sitting-on-our-asses. Those whom the great writer James Baldwin called “people who need to be white” elected Death. They are dancing in the Ozarks. They are arming themselves. They are gleeful. Yahoo!
The main thing I see, which people of good will are doing, is pressing the tear or the rage emoji. These are not moral statements. People of good will, especially the elderly, are afraid. I am afraid. Perfectly understandable.
But to die of fear, or by fear, dishonors those who came before us: Alton’s martyr in the cause of abolition, Elijah P. Lovejoy who died for our sins; the Americans who led the Underground Railroad; who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War; the World War II veterans; Martin Luther King and Malcom X; the doctors and nurses fighting for us now. Add to that list, African American Mr. George Floyd, security guard and citizen of Minneapolis, who took a gleeful knee from Derek Chauvin, who was told by his parents that he was a good boy, a superior boy.
And he believed it.