Letter from America: Understanding the trial of Derek Chauvin and death of George Floyd!
By Ken Mufuka
Our brother editor, Lance Guma, wrote on his Facebook page “Been avoiding CNN the whole day. Watching #ChauvinTrial is a bit too much for me.”
White policeman Derek Chauvin is on trial over the death of George Floyd. Chauvin, in the full knowledge that he was being videoed, and that on-lookers were telling him to let go off his knee on Floyd’s neck, remained in that position for 9 minutes and 23 seconds, with hand in pocket.
Floyd cried a few times. “I can’t breathe!.” A while woman on-looker from the fire department called on him to let go. When Chauvin remained “resolute” (ZANU-PF language), she called the police on Chauvin.
Unless the reader has some a grasp of the unspoken cultural assumptions behind the behavior of certain groups, Chauvin’s behavior looks utterly incomprehensible. I have served in juries, and I find this behavior quite normal.
In my case, we tried two possible felons, one black, one white. The black man’s name was Leroy Washington. He had stolen a Kimberley brick from Bueadrot’s Mechanical Yard which he intended to use for a grill.
Leroy employed a public defender, who had nothing to say except to say that Leroy sometimes did unreasonable activities. Information slipped (which was not intended to be) that Leroy had five prior convictions over criminal mischief of the sort now before the court.
We, members of the jury, were further incensed by the fact that Leroy kept on using his hair pick to shape his Afro-hairstyle while proceedings were going on. He paid us no mind whatever. We sent him to jail for 18 months.
The white boy was driving at 120 miles per hour when police chased him. In court, however, he had a certain Mr. J. Nisbet, his uncle to testify on his behalf. A wing of the hospital is named after Nisbet. Nisbet said his nephew, from another state, was afraid that South Carolinian police might shoot him.
The judge released Nisbet’s nephew with instructions to educate the boy that South Carolinians were the most compassionate people on the face of the earth.
In private, there were whispers that the nephew might have had some marijuana in his car and by driving faster than the police, gave himself time to throw the contraband overboard.
The judge poisoned the case in Leroy’s case by saying that Leroy’s behavior made it impossible for citizens to enjoy their property when and if the likes of Leroy might come and help themselves to this brick and that piece of one’s iron bar.
George Floyd’s case!
In the two cases above, one can see clearly that the white boy was treated with compassion because he came from a human race and deserved consideration. Leroy was a threat to normal society and deserved the harshest treatment.
Brother George Floyd belongs to Leroy’s group, a race of people assumed to be full of criminal mischief. Cultural assumptions are carried from birth and are not discussed in public.
Occasionally, one sees these prejudices expressed in public, but rarely. In March, 1857, US Chief Justice Roger Taney, reputed to be a most learned man, clearly expressed what was generally assumed but rarely expressed in such glaring terms.
“The question,” Taney wrote in his judgment of Dredd Scott case, “is simply this. Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought…and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guaranteed by that instrument to the citizen?”
Reading this judgment in year 2021 illustrates clearly the American dilemma. Taney is today regarded as a villain, but he articulated the problems Americans face today.
If Negroes were to be accepted as fully human, they would be “exempt from police regulations.” It would allow Negroes to travel across state lines, “wit or without a passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn as they pleased, without molestation. They would also be able to speak freely, “carry arms wherever they went.” This will of course cause “discontent and endanger the peace of the state.”
Just to remind our readers; this was done, as in the case of Leroy, for the Negros’s own safety as well as for the maintenance of civilization itself.
Floyd offered a $20 bill which a convenience store clearly saw was a counterfeit bill. The store manager called the police. I have had similar cases, and at one time, the bank placed a bill I had rendered in an envelope to be sent to the Federal Reserve.
The store manager assumed that Floyd was part of a gang, knowingly or unknowingly that was passing out fake bills. Surely, the store keeper should have simply returned the bill with a marker on it. The store keeper said Floyd’s speech was blurred. The unspoken cultural assumption here, which is the point of this letter, is that Floyd belongs to a criminal race.
To Chauvin, even after Floyd was handcuffed, at 6 feet and 4 inches tall, weighing about 250 pounds, he was the quintessential boogie man.
Therefore, the severest action in subduing him was called for. This explains why Chauvin, according to his attorney, did exactly what his 16 year training and experience in the police force had taught him.
The attorney does not say that even if policemen are taught this throat choke, cultural assumptions prevent them from applying them to white people.
The state, under pressure from blacks, accuses Chauvin of first degree capital murder. Each state has different rules, but first degree assumes prior intention to kill Floyd.
The likely possibility of six white jurors finding Chauvin guilty of that is almost nil.
If the other four black jurors insist, then there will be a hung jury.
A possible scenario is that Chauvin, having been warned by on-lookers and two fellow police compatriots with him to let go, engaged in criminal negligence, leading to the death of Floyd.
The real punishment, if Chauvin is incarcerated, may come from black prisoners, who mindful of cultural assumptions that ameliorated his sentence, my apply the same neck choke hold on him as part of their poetic justice project.
Ken Mufuka is a Zimbabwean patriot. He can be reached at [email protected]. His books are available in Zimbabwe from INNOV Bookshops and in the wider world at kenmufukabooks.com.