Race to the Bottom

The death of the African-American man George Floyd in May 2020 has led to a surge in support for the organisation ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) and a quasi-religious belief that black people in the Western world are unfairly discriminated against by a white majority. A video of Floyd been restrained by police officers which showed him lying on the ground with a knee pressed against his neck and the news that he died shortly afterwards has led to accusations of police brutality and systemic racism. Possibly due to restlessness brought on by the Covid-19 lockdowns, there has been a feeding frenzy for removing anything displaying or associated with oppression of black people particularly relating to slavery. Statues have been toppled, the names of buildings and streets have been changed and certain films and TV shows that are now deemed ‘controversial’ because of their potential racist connotations have been censored.

In the US, statues of historical figures like Robert E. Lee and Christopher Columbus have been pulled down or have faced calls to be pulled down and the state flag of Mississippi has been changed to remove the Confederate flag that was displayed on its canton. Additionally, Reverend Al Sharpton and film director Spike Lee, neither of whom are known to be silent when a controversy involving race relations arises, were on hand to rage about the evils of the USA and its history as an apparent white supremacist country. Perhaps they were rubbing their hands together over the opportunity to be relevant again. Rioting also broke out following George Floyd’s unfortunate demise which has resulted in cities like Minneapolis, where the incident took place, looking like a heavily bombed war zone in a distant third world country. This was reflected in other US cities like Portland.

The UK has also been engaged in hysteria over its supposed crimes of racism despite having nothing to do with what happened to Mr. Floyd.  Certain historical people with links to the slave trade and the British Empire have been attacked and vilified even though both of these things have not existed for over a hundred years. In cities like London, even the statues of widely revered figures like Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln have not been spared defacement by angry mobs whose own understanding of history is probably limited. In what the journalist Rod Liddle might call ‘peak wank’, the street sign of Penny Lane in Liverpool was sprayed with graffiti because some activists incorrectly assumed it was named after James Penny, an 18th Century merchant who lived in Liverpool and was involved in the slave trade. The hysteria was initiated in Bristol by the pulling down of a statue of Edward Colston, another merchant involved in the slave trade, which was subsequently dumped into the nearby river. Admittedly, I had never heard of Edward Colston until the incident involving his statue took place but there was no democratic mandate for the statue to be taken down. Frank Furedi in an excellent article for spiked noted:  “the pulling down of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol confirms that anti-racist protest has become meshed with an outburst of mass psychosis. What was really disturbing was not the actual tearing down of the statue but what happened afterwards. The statue was dragged through some streets before being thrown in the river. It was almost as if what was being dragged was a person rather than a statue.”

Since Britain has been for most of its history a predominantly white populated country it’s not surprising that many people, whether they had power or not, held prejudiced attitudes towards other races and so discriminated against them. However, to say that people today have the same attitudes would be ridiculous. Rather than recognising that slavery has been prevalent throughout human history, that every race of people has been slaves at one time or another and that the British Empire was one of the first to end it, people are instead told that Western countries like the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia are places of exploitation and white privilege. The constant portrayal of the British Empire as an evil organisation has intensified and white people – particularly straight white men – are showered with shame for their ancestors’ involvement in it by BLM and its supporters. As Peter Hitchens noted in one of his columns: “Sometimes I think the radical Left are more nostalgic for the British Empire than any retired Indian Army colonel ever was. They need it, to hate it.”

Businesses such as Ben and Jerry’s, Nike, H&M, Amazon amongst others have responded to the current climate by supporting BLM in the hope of getting the appeal of the ‘woke’ market and possibly because they fear being called racist for not saying anything. In one bizarre incident, Yorkshire Tea came out in support of BLM on Twitter after Yorkshirewoman Laura Towler of the group Patriotic Alternative had commended them for their initial silence on the subject. Virtue signalling in this way may make a lot of people feel good about themselves but it doesn’t address any of the problems that BLM claims to want to solve. Genuine problems facing many black communities such as family breakdown, gang violence and fatherlessness are never addressed as this would mean looking beyond the so-called problem of ‘institutionalised racism’. Also, the more radical desires of BLM such as defunding the police and wanting, in their own (now removed) words, to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another” are never mentioned in the mainstream media.

Moreover, despite the apparent rampant discrimination against black people, what is rarely discussed in public is the fact that white working class boys are now the worse performing group in terms of education in the UK which inevitably will affect their future prospects. Charles Murray has similarly detailed the dividing fortunes of the white population in the USA in his book Coming Apart which shows the emergence of an increasing white underclass.  The problems plaguing these communities are similar to those seen in many black communities of family breakdown and drug abuse. It is also not the case that black people have some kind of hive mind and think and feel the same way about all of this. In the UK, the rapper Zuby has spoken out against the hysteria over racism and I was pleasantly surprised to hear him once on BBC Radio 5 Live criticise the idea that there was ‘institutionalised racism’ in the country which the presenter was clearly surprised about.

What has been lost in this obsession with BLM and ‘institutionalised racism’ is the actual circumstances of George Floyd’s death. Like in almost every event, the facts and details of what happened are somewhat different to what most people perceive them to be. Many people probably assume for example that George Floyd was a victim of police brutality and that he choked to death because of the police officer kneeling on him. Since this has become the ‘founding myth’ of BLM in its current form, it’s important to analyse what actually happened in Minneapolis on 25th May 2020 in order to fully consider the narrative that has been put forward and its consequences.

The facts of George Floyd’s death, according to Wikipedia, are the following:

1. Floyd purchased cigarettes at a grocery store around 08:00pm.

2. A store employee believed Floyd had paid with a counterfeit $20 bill.

3. Two employees left the store and crossed the street to an SUV which Floyd was sitting in and demanded that Floyd return the cigarettes but he refused – this was captured on a security camera.

4. A store employee called the police and said that Floyd had passed “fake bills” and was “awfully drunk” and “not in control of himself”.

5. Police officers James Kueng and Thomas Lane arrived at 08:08pm and went in the store and then to Floyd’s SUV.

6. Lane tapped the window of the SUV with his flashlight to get Floyd’s attention and told Floyd to show his hands. He tapped again when Floyd did not obey. Floyd apologised and opened the car door. After asking three times for Floyd to show his hands Lane drew his gun and ordered Floyd to show his hands. Lane put his gun away when Floyd complied.

7. Someone parked behind the SUV started recording a video at 08:10pm. Following a brief struggle Lane pulled Floyd from the SUV and handcuffed him.

8. At 08:12pm Kueng sat Floyd on the sidewalk against the wall in front of the restuarant. Floyd was asked if he was “on something” and he said no. Keung told Floyd that he was acting “real erratic” and asked him about foam around his mouth. Floyd responded that he was ‘hooping’ earlier. Floyd was calm and said thank you according to criminal prosecutors.

9. At 08:13pm Floyd was told he was under arrest and walked to the police car across the street. Floyd fell to the ground next to the car. The officers picked him up and placed him against the police car door. Floyd said he was claustrophobic and not resisting arrest. Kueng and Lane attempted to put Floyd in the car but he said he couldn’t breathe. Lane said that Floyd was bleeding from his mouth because of thrashing back and forth when in the back of the car and hitting his face on the glass separating the front and back seats.

10. Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao arrived at 08:17pm and joined Kueng and Lane. Chauvin assumed command.

11. Floyd told the officers he could not breathe when he was forced into the police car. Kueng was struggling with Floyd for at least a minute.

12. Chauvin pulled Floyd across the backseat from the driver side to the passenger side then out of the car. Floyd fell to the pavement and laid on his chest with his cheek to the ground. He was still handcuffed. He was conscious but stopped moving.

13. Three of the police officers restrained Floyd by applying pressure on him. Lane was applying pressure on Floyd’s legs, Kueng on his torso and Chauvin on his neck. Thao stood nearby.

14. Floyd stopped moving around 08:20pm and said “I can’t breathe!” “Please!” “Mama!” Lane asked for an ambulance for “one bleeding from the mouth”.

15. Floyd repeats 16 times that he can’t breathe. A witness said: “You got him down. Let him breathe.” Floyd said: “I’m about to die” and Chauvin said “Relax”. An officer asked Floyd: “What do you want?” and Floyd responds “I can’t breathe” and “please, the knee in my neck, I can’t breathe.”

16. Around 08:22pm an officer called for an ambulance on a non-emergency basis which was turned to an emergency a minute later. Chauvin’s knee was still on Floyd’s neck. A passerby said to Floyd: “Well, get up, get in the car, man.” and Floyd responded “I can’t” with Chauvin’s knee still on his neck. Floyd cried out “Mama!” twice then said: “My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts” and requested water then said “don’t kill me”.

17. One witness pointed out that Floyd was bleeding out of his nose and another witness told officers Floyd was “not even resisting arrest right now.” Thao said Floyd was fine because he was talking. The witness responded that he wasn’t fine and told the officers to get Floyd off the ground and into the police car. He also said that they were enjoying it because of their body language.

18. By 08:25pm Floyd appeared unconscious and bystanders confronted the officers about his condition.

19. An ambulance arrived at 08:27pm. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost a minute after the ambulance arrived despite Floyd being silent and motionless. Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for 7 minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd was put onto a stretcher and put in the ambulance.

20. The ambulance requested assistance from the Minneapolis Fire Department. The firefighters arrived at the store at 08:32 but were apparently not given clear information on Floyd’s location which delayed them getting to the ambulance. Floyd went into cardiac arrest and when fire department medics reached him he was unresponsive and pulseless.

21. Floyd was pronounced dead at 09:25pm in the Hennepin County Medical Center emergency room. In the first autopsy, Floyd was found to have heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use but it was concluded that his death was due to “a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained.”  However, a second autopsy commissioned by Floyd’s family concluded that he died from “asphyxia due to neck and back compression” with apparently no underlying health problem contributing to it. This autopsy did not include a toxicology report or samples from Floyd’s body.

When I first heard about this incident, I saw the video showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck which was recorded by a witness standing on the other side of the police car from where the restraint was taking place. Only Floyd and Chauvin can be seen and someone can be heard saying “You’re enjoying it” etc. to Chauvin which strengthens the idea that the video is depicting police brutality. This is likely the video that was seen by many other people as well. Since I started writing this, another video was leaked showing the body cams of both Keung and Lane that recorded the incident from the officers’ point of view. The video starts from when the officers approached Floyd in his SUV and ends with his restraint beside the police car before his unconscious body was loaded into an ambulance. The events described in the Wikipedia article more or less match up with what happens on the video.

The officer who speaks to Floyd is a little forceful towards him at the beginning of the video but it isn’t clear if they had interacted beforehand or not. While Floyd initially appears calm, he starts crying and telling the police officer not to shoot him. The officer and the woman sat next to Floyd tell him to stop resisting. Once Floyd gets out of his car and is taken to the police car he is sat against the wall as indicated in the Wikipedia article and says thank you whilst still crying. Floyd claims to be claustrophobic which is why he is reluctant to get into the police car. Floyd says he’s “not that kind of guy” to use counterfeit dollar bills and can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” before he is restrained on the ground by the officers. At certain points he said he just had Covid-19. Floyd starts screaming and talking fast whilst he is saying he can’t breathe. The officers eventually restrain Floyd on the ground and tell him to stop moving while Floyd says “please let me stand”.  Before he goes to the ground he can be heard saying “I’m gonna lay on the ground” and “I’m going down”. When Floyd was on the ground he seemed to be slurring his words like “I can bleethe”. People on the street talk to Floyd and tell him to stop resisting. One of the officers asks if Floyd is on PCP. When Floyd is on the ground in restraint he cries out “Mama” and “Mama I love you” a few times then starts breathing heavily before going quiet and still. The police keep Floyd in this restrained position for several minutes after he had stopped moving and talking before he is placed in the ambulance.

After watching the whole video, it’s clear to me that Floyd was acting distressed and incoherent so the response by the police officers was not altogether surprising. Floyd at several points starts crying, screaming, talking very quickly and generally looks erratic indicating he had, as the first autopsy indicated, recently used fentanyl and methamphetamine. This behaviour might also have been because he was going into cardiac arrest. How much been restrained on the ground by the police officers contributed to his death is hard to tell because it is not obvious how much pressure they were applying to Floyd’s body and if they were obstructing his breathing. However, I don’t believe the police officers’ restraint of Floyd was the primary cause of his death because before he was restrained, Floyd was saying he couldn’t breathe and when he was held on the ground his breathing was heavy rather than restricted. The cause of death stated in the first autopsy appears to me to be more truthful than the second one.

Probably the biggest mistake made by the police officers here though was to keep Floyd restrained in the same position long after he became motionless. If they had changed their position, let him go or tried to get him up after he had appeared to lose consciousness the outcome may have been different. Of course, there’s no way of knowing whether or not Floyd would have survived regardless of how the police were restraining him but it may have prevented Floyd’s death from having the impact that it has had. Floyd been in restraint even while he stopped talking and struggling seems to be where the trouble started. The first video of the incident and the man saying “Look at you, you’re enjoying it..” starts around this point and likely what fuelled the outrage. From my own admittedly amateur point of view, I can understand why Floyd was put in restraint but also believe he should have been taken out of it once he stopped moving.

Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck seem, to me at least, unnecessary given that Floyd was already being restrained by Keung and Lane and Floyd stopped struggling with the officers. Floyd appeared to be in some distress likely caused by the drugs detected in his body after his death so it makes sense that the police would try to restrain him. A more drastic form of restraint might have been required had Floyd posed a threat to other people but this does not appear to be the case. If Floyd was saying he couldn’t breathe while he was being restrained then this should have prompted Chauvin to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck.  I used to work in a health care setting where restraining people was sometimes required and we were taught about ‘reasonable force’. This is force that can be used on somebody which has to meet two requirements: that it is necessary and proportional. In other words, restraining Floyd may have been necessary but the kneeling was not proportional to the threat posed by him.

The image of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd is probably the main reason why George Floyd’s death has had so much impact. While it’s hard to tell how much force Chauvin was using, the wide-eyed look on Floyd’s face on one of the photographs that circulated following the incident – such as the one shown on the Wikipedia article – gives the impression that he is being choked on the ground by Chauvin. Somebody I showed the photo to also made the mistake of thinking Floyd was trapped underneath the police car when in fact he was beside it. It’s possible other people came to the same conclusion which adds to the alarming image.  Chauvin been a white man and Floyd been black did not help matters either. Had it being Tou Thao, who is Hmong-American, or Keung, who identifies as African-American, that had knelt on Floyd’s neck instead of Derek Chauvin the incident may not have had the impact that it did. This also raises the question whether or not this unfortunate episode was racially motivated since only two of the four police officers involved, Lane and Chauvin, are white. Interestingly, Chauvin and Floyd once worked overlapping shifts as security guards for a nightclub but the club’s former owner was unsure to what extent they knew each other.

Accusations of police brutality were reinforced when it was discovered that both Chauvin and Thao had incidents in the past of potential misdemeanours with Thao also having a lawsuit filed against him and another officer for apparently using ‘unreasonable force’ during an arrest in 2017. Thao was not involved in George Floyd’s restraint but he was cooperating with his fellow officers and said “say no to drugs” when George Floyd was saying he can’t breathe and witnesses were protesting. However, there have been no accusations of ‘Hmong/Asian-American racism against black people’ like there has been with white people. While you could argue that the actions of the police officers was excessive and disproportionate to the threat posed by Mr. Floyd, there is no evidence that racist slurs or prejudiced attitudes were expressed towards him. Unjustified police brutality against black people may be an issue in some cases but applying it to every case does not help deal with the problem or rebuild trust between the police and the communities they serve.

There are good and bad people in every profession and the police are no exception. There are no doubt people in positions of power in the police force that are not suited to the role but there will be highly competent and professional officers within these organisations as well. Since there are dangerous criminals and thugs among us, there needs to be people who are willing and able to maintain order and stability and people who will support them in doing so. It’s worth considering that the kind of people who would find police work appealing are also the kind of people who may enjoy conflict and the opportunity to restrain somebody.  Inevitably, this allows controversial situations such as the George Floyd incident to occur. However, it is overall a good thing that such people exist as there is plenty of crime and disorder around which needs to be dealt with but this can obviously go too far. 

It is hard to see what good will come out of the response to George Floyd’s death. Will relations between black and white people improve after this? It would appear not as white people are now reduced to constantly genuflecting to black people in apology and organisations like BLM can now make more and more demands on black people’s behalf. This submissive attitude however is futile as no matter how far people, companies, organisations and institutions grovel to these groups, it will not be enough as their real animosity is towards Western civilisation as a whole. While I am wary of using the term ‘far right’ or ‘white supremacy’, the consequences of presenting white people as racist oppressors and black people as their victims will push more people into exploring these ideas as a way of asserting their identity. That being said, it would be a good thing if white people as a group had a positive identity instead of always being viewed negatively.

Whether or not the police’s reaction would have been different if George Floyd had been white is an impossible one to answer but the aftermath of Floyd’s death has probably made race relations worse rather than better as many black and white people will continue to resent each other. Although BLM claims to want to help black people, its main purpose seems to be to keep them in a state of victimhood whereby their circumstances do not improve. That way many black people will continue to dislike and distrust white people and Western civilisation.

Since most Western countries have embraced the thinking of BLM, it doesn’t look like this attitude is going to change any time soon. If BLM’s demands become more excessive and extreme, many countries in the West could be heading into a race to the bottom in terms of overall decline.

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