In his June 7 column, Tom West writes about all kinds of failures related to the murder of George Floyd. After reading it, I could only conclude that Mr. West absolutely fails to grasp the most important facts related to Mr. Floyd’s death.
By far, the greatest failure in this column was that the fact was not acknowledged that George Floyd was a human being. I am going to repeat that again in case it was missed the first time. George Floyd was a human being.
Second, what happened to George Floyd, a human being, should never have happened to anyone. Floyd was held down in hand cuffs by four police officers who had taken an oath to protect and serve other human beings. Again, remember, George Floyd was a human being who these officers were supposed to protect and serve.
These officers did not protect Floyd, rather, they held him down and one of them kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes. Floyd cried. He told the officers that he couldn’t breathe. He begged for his life. He cried for his mother. People witnessing the killing of George Floyd begged the officers to get off of him and to stop killing him. They did not.
Floyd was dead when the officer with his knee on his neck finally got off of him. While these details are horrific, failure to acknowledge them gives people an out, a way to start to forget, a way to look the other way, an avenue to wiggle out of taking action to affect change so that this never ever happens to another human being.
Third, the column cites that Floyd made “mistakes” and suggests that because of these mistakes, namely that Floyd tried to pass a bad check, resisted arrest (Floyd’s friend who was with him and several others on scene have said they saw no evidence that he resisted arrest) and that he had some drugs in his system at the time of his death somehow justified what happened to him. The column implies that because of these “mistakes,” Floyd probably had it coming.
Failure to recognize and call out this type of false argument for the nonsense that it is stops right here. This is called a blaming the victim argument. It is a textbook strategy used by oppressors and those who perpetrate crimes on others as a way to justify their actions and keep others oppressed. Another example of this argument goes something like this: “Well, she was wearing a swim suit, so she had it coming,” says the person who assaulted her to justify his actions.
Failure to recognize this type of thinking only perpetuates more crimes happening to human beings like George Floyd. While in one tiny sentence the column states that these “mistakes” do not justify the taking of Floyd’s life, the damage is already done in the preceding paragraphs.
Finally, the column’s failure to acknowledge that the value of human life should always outweigh the value of property is deeply troubling. While I do not support or condone the rioting and looting that occurred following Floyd’s murder, when its main focus of discussion centers around partisan rants related to how bad it was that property was destroyed rather than the continuous killing and denial of basic human rights for especially black and brown people, that is a basic failure to recognize the humanity of others, and it only perpetuates the very system that the column decries as failing its citizens so badly.
I do not pretend to know what will stop the killing of human beings like George Floyd in the future, but I think that recognizing George Floyd as a human being is an important first step. No human being should ever be treated the way Mr. Floyd was.
The column poses the question: “Can’t anyone lead anymore?”
To this I say that leadership starts with individuals. Therefore, leadership could start with the columnist. It could start with acknowledging that George Floyd was a human being who should not have been killed at the hands of those who were supposed to protect and serve him.
I challenge this columnist to be a leader who ditches the false arguments and arm chair partisan quarterbacking that he is so fond of spewing in his column, and instead use his voice, influence and column for thoughtful, searching and meaningful discussions about how to solve the problem of systemic racism in our world.
— Ann Smith-Bleichner is a resident of Albany.