In closing arguments in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the homicide of George Floyd, Steven Schleicher pressured 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 referred to as the ‘State of Minnesota vs. the police.”
This argumentative method has, after all, drawn hearth from critics for displacing focus from the system of policing in America as entire, which they imagine is in dire want of reform, even full overhaul or abolition, and projecting the entire issues with unchecked state-sponsored racist police violence onto Chauvin, one of many proverbial dangerous apples. Certainly, Schleicher insisted Chauvin’s murderous actions had 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, famous, “The best way the political institution is approaching this trial is to rehabilitate and reinforce the legitimacy of policing and the authorized system.”
Strategically, after all, due to the best way our authorized system operates, one can perceive the method within the prosecution’s closing arguments. Little question they needed to enchantment to jurors sympathetic to the police who is perhaps reluctant to convict an officer of the legislation or who is perhaps averse to levying a verdict in opposition to the system as a complete. And, after all, our courts are designed to prosecute particular particular person actors, not our authorized and legislation enforcement system as a complete, of which the courts are an element.
Ray emphasizes this dynamic in our felony justice system: “In a court docket of legislation, people are prosecuted. Due to the over individualization of our court docket system, establishments are let off the hook.”
And whereas there isn’t a doubt that political stress should proceed to be utilized in searching for transformation of policing and the felony justice system total in America, we should additionally watch out to not let the American establishment most essentially answerable for the unceasing stream of police murders of African People, and folks of colour extra usually, off the hook.
I’m speaking, after all, concerning the cultural establishment of white supremacy, which constitutes the basis and enabling basis of policing, which, after all, was born out of the system of slavery.
Derek Chauvin’s homicide of George Floyd and the entire different state-sponsored police murders too quite a few to checklist 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 felony justice reform distract us to the purpose that we let the establishment of white supremacy off the hook, we white individuals may not let ourselves off the hook by merely assigning blame in a generalizing option to the white supremacist system.
We can’t fall into the sample of speaking about apples, distinguishing between “good” anti-racist American apples and “dangerous” racist apples. As we all know, that’s not a systemic method; that’s not how techniques work.
It might be tempting to observe 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 techniques work. You may’t stay within the system, take pleasure in 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 People 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 threat stipulating how a normal non-white America sees white People. It does appear truthful to say, although, in a nation characterised by racial terror for individuals of colour, that folks of colour in white areas gained’t understand “good apples” and “dangerous 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 basically how we see.
In her 2019 Netflix sequence When They See Us, Ava DuVernay seeks, I imagine, to rework the best way we as white People, on the entire, SEE: the best way we see African People, the best way we see ourselves and our place on the earth in relation to African People, 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. Although 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 observe, driving house the extent to which these younger black lives simply don’t matter within the eyes of the U.S. felony justice system — together with the people working inside the system — and in U.S. society at giant.
These boys aren’t seen as human by “them,” white individuals, usually talking, and the racist felony 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 working towards 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 People 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 People, towards individuals of colour and asks we white People to see ourselves, to see how we’re seen.
Whereas the prosecution made its closing arguments within the Chauvin homicide trial, we the individuals should not shut this case and be happy 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 People.
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 educational 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 Ladies, and the Illinois Lady’s Press Affiliation.