In closing arguments in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the homicide of George Floyd, Steven Schleicher burdened on behalf of the state of Minnesota, “This isn’t a prosecution of the police.”
Schleicher underlined the purpose to the jury: “To be very clear, this case known as the ‘State of Minnesota vs. Derek Chauvin,’ this case will not be known as the ‘State of Minnesota vs. the police.”
This argumentative method has, in fact, drawn fireplace from critics for displacing focus from the system of policing in America as complete, which they imagine is in dire want of reform, even full overhaul or abolition, and projecting all the issues with unchecked state-sponsored racist police violence onto Chauvin, one of many proverbial unhealthy apples. Certainly, Schleicher insisted Chauvin’s murderous actions have been “not policing,” whereas critics see his use of extreme and lethal as exactly definitive of normal policing.
As Rashawn Ray, a fellow in governance research at The Brookings Establishment and a professor on the College of Maryland, Faculty Park, noted, “The way in which the political institution is approaching this trial is to rehabilitate and reinforce the legitimacy of policing and the authorized system.”
Strategically, in fact, due to the best way our authorized system operates, one can perceive the method within the prosecution’s closing arguments. Little doubt they wished to enchantment to jurors sympathetic to the police who is perhaps reluctant to convict an officer of the regulation or who is perhaps averse to levying a verdict towards the system as a complete. And, in fact, our courts are designed to prosecute particular particular person actors, not our authorized and regulation enforcement system as a complete, of which the courts are an element.
Ray emphasizes this dynamic in our prison justice system: “In a courtroom of regulation, people are prosecuted. Due to the over individualization of our courtroom system, establishments are let off the hook.”
And whereas there is no such thing as a doubt that political stress should proceed to be utilized in looking for transformation of policing and the prison justice system general in America, we should additionally watch out to not let the American establishment most essentially accountable for the unceasing stream of police murders of African Individuals, and folks of shade extra usually, off the hook.
I’m speaking, in fact, in regards to the cultural establishment of white supremacy, which constitutes the basis and enabling basis of policing, which, in fact, was born out of the system of slavery.
Derek Chauvin’s homicide of George Floyd and all the different state-sponsored police murders too quite a few to record right here (and extra by the day—take a look at Brooklyn Heart, Columbus, and Elizabeth Metropolis) have been enabled and sometimes legitimated by white supremacy.
And whereas we can’t let a deal with the necessity for police and prison justice reform distract us to the purpose that we let the establishment of white supremacy off the hook, we white folks may also not let ourselves off the hook by merely assigning blame in a generalizing method to the white supremacist system.
We can’t fall into the sample of speaking about apples, distinguishing between “good” anti-racist American apples and “unhealthy” racist apples. As we all know, that’s not a systemic method; that’s not how programs work.
It could be tempting to look at Chauvin’s detached and defiant expression as he kneels on George Floyd’s neck and to dissociate, to say, “That’s not me.”
That’s not how programs work. You may’t dwell within the system, get pleasure from privileges of the system, after which deny your membership in that system, no matter your ideological predilections and even your activist credentials.
The problem for white Individuals is to see ourselves in Derek Chauvin.
And maybe to see ourselves as a non-white America would possibly. As a result of I’m white, I don’t wish to danger stipulating how a basic non-white America sees white Individuals. It does appear honest to say, although, in a nation characterised by racial terror for folks of shade, that folks of shade in white areas received’t understand “good apples” and “unhealthy apples” among the many white inhabitants usually.
My statement and examine recommend we in white America are perceived as a harmful apple tree, and the nation as no backyard of Eden.
The query, although, is de facto how we see.
In her 2019 Netflix collection When They See Us, Ava DuVernay seeks, I imagine, to remodel the best way we as white Individuals, on the entire, SEE: the best way we see African Individuals, the best way we see ourselves and our place on the earth in relation to African Individuals, and the best way we see and perceive the social dynamics fueled by the best way dominant white tradition, for lack of a greater time period, trains us to see.
She paperwork the notorious story of the 5 African American youngsters framed for the 1989 rape and beating of a lady in Central Park. Despite the fact that understated in its dramatization of the police’s manipulation and framing of the youngsters via coercive, dishonest, and intimidating interrogations, DuVernay’s methodical illustration is poignant and painful to look at, driving house the extent to which these younger black lives simply don’t matter within the eyes of the U.S. prison justice system — together with the people working throughout the system — and in U.S. society at giant.
These boys are usually not seen as human by “them,” white folks, usually talking, and the racist prison justice system specifically. DuVernay’s title highlights the antagonistic methods of seeing at work in our racially-polarized and racist society, underlining the “us” versus “them” actuality of a nation stubbornly dedicated to training racial oppression and repelling the perfect concord embodied in our hope of e pluribis unum.
Whereas DuVernay definitely accentuates how a white racist imaginative and prescient erroneously and violently figures these boys as savage beasts, she additionally turns the tables and asks white Individuals to see how they and extra importantly their behaviors, systemic and particular person, are seen from the angle of the racially othered in America. Or, extra to level, she asks us to see these behaviors and attitudes objectively. It’s probably not only a matter of perspective.
She portrays the violent and terroristic savagery of white America, of white Individuals, towards folks of shade and asks we white Individuals to see ourselves, to see how we’re seen.
Whereas the prosecution made its closing arguments within the Chauvin homicide trial, we the folks should not shut this case and be glad with holding solely Derek Chauvin or the police accountable.
We should maintain white supremacy accountable and, in doing so, take a tough look within the mirror as white Individuals.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and tradition at a state college in Chicago. An extended-time progressive voice, he has printed many tutorial and journalistic articles on tradition, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has obtained awards from the Working Class Research Affiliation, the Worldwide Labor Communications Affiliation, the Nationwide Federation of Press Girls, and the Illinois Girl’s Press Affiliation.