May 25, 2020 : A Retrospective of George Floyd’s Death
Did he deserve to die ? I don’t think so — but he surely deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison.
May 25, 2020 will, I think, remain etched in many people’s minds. The date on which the world witnessed the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and which saw millions of people, as a result, violently protesting in the streets of hundreds of cities around the world. And it’s also the date that has seen the anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter gain recognition around the world, with some even comparing it to the very famous Black Panther movement.
George Floyd’s murder — Let’s recall the facts
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd went to a local grocery shop to purchase cigarettes, which he paid for with a counterfeit $20 bill. When shop employees stopped the suspect in his vehicle and asked him to return the cigarettes, he refused. One of the employees called the police to report that Floyd had paid with counterfeit money, was « awfully drunk » and « not in control of himself »— it was later revealed through his autopsy that he was high on Fentanyl, Norfentanyl, amphetamine, methamphetamine, caffeine, cotinine, as well as a few other illicit substances.
The police confronted George Floyd in his car and one of them asked him to show his hands several times, but Floyd didn’t obey and kept whining. The officers had to drag him out of the car by force, sit him down on the floor against the wall of a building, and explain to him the reason for his arrest. They told him that they had been forced to take him out of the vehicle because he had not listened to anything they said. They then took the decision to put Floyd in their patrol car to take him to the police station, but he kept resisting and wasn’t willing to comply.
The police officers were forced to tackle him to the ground to stabilize him. And that’s when things got out of hand. Derek Chauvin, one of the four police officers dispatched to the scene, deliberately kneeled on the suspect’s neck as he repeatedly told him that he could not breathe. Witnesses at the scene tried to intervene, to warn now-ex-officer Chauvin that what he was doing — committing a crime — was illegal. No one listened. And George Floyd died shortly after the ambulance showed up.
As a result of this incident, violent riots broke out around the world, with people protesting against racial violence, police brutality, racial discrimination and racism — proclaiming that Black people’s lives matter equally and as much as those of White people.
With this, George Floyd has become a « hero », « symbol », and « icon » of the BLM movement, and is now the main reference point in the fight against racial discrimination, racial violence and racism. And, frankly, I find this insulting and despicable. Meaningless. And one question comes to mind when I think about it : why ? Why him ?
“We’ve come a long way” — A note on racism
The profound racism experienced by Black people is not new. Many black — and white — people, who are making history today, have stood up and fought for our rights, our honour and our legitimacy. As a people, we all know that we have come a long way, that our suffering is far from over and that we must continue to fight for our rights and equality in this world.
We’ve come a long way, yes, but I think it is important to note that racism, too, has also come a long way. It has evolved. It’s not as violent and present as it was then. Today, I can go to a grocery shop to buy chives without fearing that the manager will threaten me, insult me and call the police for the simple reason that he doesn’t want a Black person in his store. Today, I am even happy to go to that grocery shop, pay for my food, and be able to chat with the shop manager, all smiles, and walk out of the store greeting a few passers-by on my way home.
Beware — I am not saying that this kind of incident doesn’t happen anymore. But if it does happen, you have to defend yourself and keep in mind that nowadays almost everything is filmed, and the truth always comes out quickly.
Sixty years ago, I would never have been able to go into a grocery shop without being afraid. Sixty years ago, every time I went home, I would think, « Thank God, I’m still alive. » Today, this is no longer the case. Thanks to the spectacular progress that we have all made (hand in hand). Racism is still with us and will be for some time, but it is up to us to work and educate those in need to ensure that the events of the past do not happen again.
Not my hero, not my icon — I do not support George Floyd
Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, John Brown, W.E.B. Du Bois, Rosa Parks, Mary White Ovington, and many others, all actively fought for change, for a change in the condition of Black people — perceived as inferior and not entitled to rights. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, advocated a nation and a world in which « the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood », a nation and a world in which « little black boys and little black girls will be able to join little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. » But he never advocated a nation and a world in which black and white children would hold up a far from admirable and heroic Black man as an icon and role model for the active fight against racism.
Because that’s what George Floyd was.
Since 2020 and his death, I have been thinking for a long time and I have come to ask myself the following question : how could we have reached this point ? How did it come to this point, to want to flout and reject all the progress we’ve made so far ? How could it come to this point to reject everything that the great leaders of the Civil Rights Movement stood for and fought for ? George Floyd was never a hero, an icon, a symbol, or anything else. He was a criminal, a despicable human being — nothing else.
Between 1997 and 2005, George Floyd served a total of more than eight prison sentences for « drug possession, theft and trespass ». But the point of no return was reached in 2007, when he broke into the flat of a young black woman, Aracely Henriquez, and her partner, Angel Negrete, with five other people, threatened Ms. Henriquez by pointing a gun at her stomach, searched the victims’ home for money and drugs, and later, when he did not find what he was looking for, stole their personal belongings and mobile phones before walking away with his companions. For this, he was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2009.
At what point have we sunk so low as to consider a career criminal a martyr and a hero of our cause ? At what point can you smear and spit on centuries of hard struggle ?
When real, innocent Black citizens, with no criminal record, are killed for nothing — Emmett Till, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain to name but three — you either don’t react or react very little and move on quickly. But when it comes to career criminals, and this can be seen quickly, you are heard crying, shouting and protesting for months. I have to say : I miss the days when we took to the streets to cry and demand justice for innocent Black people killed for no reason.
You create and proudly wear T-shirts with George Floyd’s image, proclaiming that he is the hero of Black people when he’s not and will never be — what about Elijah McClain ?
I do not support everything controversial right-wing activist and politician Candace Owens has said, but when she released her video in which she explains that she doesn’t support George Floyd and asks Black people what they think about the victim who saw George Floyd break into her flat, threaten her with a gun and steal her personal belongings, and who is now forced to watch as hundreds of people cry out for justice for him, I must admit that I totally agreed with her.
We went from leading a dignified and proud battle for our rights and legitimacy by marching in the streets, meeting with different presidents, creating the Black Panther Party and the Black Power Movement, and heroically raising our fists in the air to mark our protest at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, to marching and crying for career criminals. Please — tell me, at what point did we make the decision to give up our dignity ?
And, in all honesty, I can’t help but laugh and cringe in disgust when I listen again to his brother’s speech, following Derek Chauvin’s conviction, in which he compares the tragic murder of Emmett Till in 1955 with George’s. Emmett Till, contrary to what he said, was by no means the « first George Floyd » — Emmett was not a career criminal, he was a simple Black American citizen who was just trying to live his life as best he could at the age of 14, despite the systemic racism that prevailed in the country at that time.
On the other hand, George Floyd was an African-American known to the law and repeatedly convicted of theft, trespassing and drug possession. He is in no way Emmett Till and does him no justice or honour. This man is an absolute disgrace.
And to know that he was the one who was given the benefit of massive demonstrations is even more repulsive to me. Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain should have been the ones to benefit, they should have had their names chanted and mourned around the world, they should have been the ones to get justice — but they weren’t.
There are plenty of George Floyd’s out there. And every day, they are killed by police bullets — blacks known to the law, who do nothing to help the community (they sully it, in fact, without the slightest shame) and who know nothing but crime and violence. The latest was Jayland Walker, who was killed in early July following a chase with police after fleeing an attempted traffic stop. Looking at the videos captured by CCTV and police bodycams, it is seen that he fires at the police — his gun was found on the seat of his car. And yet, this is the kind of person you cry over.
So this is the fight against racism and the quest for black empowerment today ? Crying and holding up career criminals as martyrs, as symbols, as icons ? These are the blacks you’re going to tell your children to look up to, when far more dignified and decent men made our skin colour proud years ago — Martin Luther King Jr, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young… all those heroes who proudly marched on Washington in 1963 ?
Jesus Christ, when are you going to open your eyes ? Black people, it is time you properly choose your heroes.
Derek Chauvin — The other moron in this story
On May 25, 2020, after becoming hostile towards police officers and refusing to comply with their request to enter their patrol vehicle, George Floyd was tackled to the ground and immobilized by three of the four police officers present — two immobilizing his lower body and one kneeling on his neck.
You know, I think it’s obvious to everyone that when you’re dealing with an uncooperative, hostile, two-metre-tall, burly person, it’s normal to try to put them on the ground in order to maintain control over them and the situation. Properly constituted individuals with even the slightest bit of logic would immobilize the suspect’s lower body and stop there, finding that the situation is now fully under control. This was done by two of the four officers present.
And then Derek Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck.
I think it’s important to do a background check on his police career, in order to understand the issue better. Derek Chauvin has a total of 18 complaints on his official record for misconduct, two of which resulted in disciplinary action. During a police operation on September 4, 2017, Derek Chauvin violently struck a 14-year-old Black teenager with a torch — the victim had to be stitched up — and held him down with his knee for nearly 17 minutes, ignoring the boy’s repeated complaints that he was struggling to breathe.
And when he was working in a Latino club, off-duty as a police officer, as a security guard, he was violent there too. The owner of the club described him as « unnecessarily aggressive » on nights when the club had black clientele. When a fight broke out, he would break it up « by dousing the crowd with pepper spray and calling in several police squad cars for backup. »
Understand here that Derek Chauvin is a habitual aggressor. What he did to George Floyd was not second and third degree murder as the media say, but intentional homicide— Derek Chauvin knew exactly what he was doing, what was going to happen next by deliberately leaving his knee on Floyd’s neck as it was not the first time he had done this. Chauvin deliberately murdered Floyd, I’d say he was trying to do it by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. He has no sympathy from me.
To the question « Is Derek Chauvin [a] racist ? » I answer : I don’t know. And I don’t want to know (because he’s rotting away in a prison cell, as we speak). But I would say that he is a deeply unhappy man, unhappy in his own skin — and this deep unhappiness is expressed through violence, through abuse of power. It’s sad, in a way, you might say.
So, was the murder of George Floyd an act of racism ? No. Did the police officers arrest George Floyd because of racism ? No — there is no evidence to date to suggest this. Furthermore, his arrest was simply because he was uncooperative and refused to comply with the officers’ orders. When someone, regardless of their background and/or skin colour, is hostile and uncooperative with law enforcement, it is quite obvious that they will arrest them.
Crying racism for anything and everything, even for legitimate causes, is very common among Black people and leads them to defend the indefensible, mostly career criminals, just because they too are black and that we’ve endured centuries of suffering. This constant victimhood — and I’m not the only Black person to point this out, though we are few to do so — is despicable, moronic and completely irrelevant.
George Floyd was a despicable being, but so was Derek Chauvin. What stands out as a lesson from this May 25, 2020 event is that it involved two morons — a drug-addicted career criminal and a police officer addicted to abuse of power and aggressiveness.
The conclusion — Reflecting on where we are now
In the end, did George Floyd deserve to die ? I don’t think so. I am unable to give a definite answer to that question. But what I can say is that George Floyd was, in the end, a simple victim of his own stupidity. Had he not been high on illicit substances on that fateful day of May 25, 2020, had he not paid for his cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, had he not been immersed in crime and had, instead, led a decent life, none of this would have happened. He would not have died.
If Derek Chauvin had practised his profession nobly and correctly, and was not so addicted to abuse of power and aggressiveness due to his deep-seated unhappiness, he would not be rotting in prison as I write these words. Both were victims of their own stupidity, and they have only themselves to blame.
Just like Chauvin, George Floyd deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison. A career criminal addicted to drugs should not be on the streets, let alone mourned and held up as a hero, icon, and symbol.
Because this is not why Civil Rights activists marched on Washington in August 1963, why Olympic athletes proudly raised their fists in the air with their heads down at the 1968 Summer Games, and why Black Panther members actively fought to make their cause heard and assert their rights. We did not fight heroically and admirably only to regress so quickly and give up our values and dignity.
- Official and legal document. George Floyd’s autopsy. Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. May 31, 2020.
- Wall Street Journal. Police Body-Camera Footage Reveals New Details of George Floyd Killing. August 11, 2020.
- YouTube. Martin Luther King — ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech. August 28, 1963.
- Snopes. Background Check: Investigating George Floyd’s Criminal Record. Jessica Lee. June 12, 2020.
- The Washington Times. George Floyd, Black Lives Matter martyr, struggled with drugs, crime. Valerie Richardson. June 7, 2020.
- Twitter. Confession: George Floyd is neither a martyr or a hero. But I hope his family gets justice. Right-wing activist and politician Candace Owens. June 3, 2020.
- History. How the Black Power Protest at the 1968 Olympics Killed Careers. Erin Blakemore. February 22, 2018.
- MSNBC. Philonise Floyd: ‘We Are Able To Breathe Again’. April 21, 2021.
- CBS Evening News. Akron police release video of Jayland Walker shooting. July 4, 2022.
- Wikipedia. March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.