I remember when the video first appeared showing a police officer with his knee on the back of a man who was begging for air. I remember the horror I felt, the anger, and the despair. I watched most of the trial and was sobered a bit by the amount of video that I had never seen before that showed what led up to the 9 minutes of video that our nation and much of the world had memorized from the incessant airing of it over days, weeks, and months following the event.

I have been cautioning students for years to “account for what you don’t know” and I realize that even with intent and effort to do so I sometimes fail. In other words, I form an opinion based on part and not the whole…

I still suffer when I watch the unfolding of the scene that ends with a dead man being lifted onto a stretcher, but I also suffer when I hear people say he sacrificed his life for justice. That did not happen. He had no idea he was going to die that day. He absolutely did not wish to be arrested by police when they approached him after being called for assistance – to deal with Mr. Floyd after he passed what a store clerk believed to be a counterfeit $20 bill. I suffer when I watch 3 police officers struggle to get Mr. Floyd into the back of the police car – when I hear him plead with them and watch him flail about as they try to do their job. It is their job to handcuff and place citizens in the back of a patrol car and take them into the station for further processing. For many reasons, he would not cooperate for that to happen. It was and is painful to watch. Was he panicked? Frightened? High? Mentally ill? They did not know, but they did have reason to take him into custody, and he did not go willingly, and then the unraveling that we all watched in horror ended in tragedy.

I worry what we are teaching our children and young adults when we herald someone a hero in cases like these. There was nothing heroic about what Mr. Floyd did. There is tragedy all around because “excessive force” resulted in death, but less force resulted in him throwing himself out of the car. When I first watched Mr. Chauvin with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s back – hands in pockets – appearing smug, I wanted to throttle him. When I watched it in the context of a prolonged struggle that did not subside until Mr. Floyd was on the ground, I wondered what was truly going on inside the mind of the officer. I cannot make that call. I so wish he had not put his knee on the gentleman’s back. I wish Mr. Floyd had been kept on his side. I wish he were still alive, and I wish both men’s lives were free. Now, one is dead and one is locked away, and we are left with the lessons to learn from it all. I’m just concerned we aren’t learning the best lessons – that a false narrative is being spun and rightful accountability is not being dealt to all deserving parties.

Was the arrest mishandled? Of course. But, the question no one seems willing to address is one I have ask myself after experiencing something distressing in my own life: what could I have done differently that would have resulted in a better outcome? Who, besides Mr. Chauvin, made errors on that fateful day? Is it important to at the very least acknowledge that this all began with breaking the law and then refusing to cooperate with a simple request to get into the back of a car?

For real peace to be achieved, all of truth must be acknowledged and honored. The death of George Floyd is a tragedy and the fate of Mr. Chauvin is a tragedy, and heralding either a hero from their behaviors on that day is a mark of foolishness and ignorance that furthers the demise of our nation.
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