Derek Chauvin’s racist defense is rooted in centuries-old stereotypes

& Quot; I gave flowers just because I wanted peace & quot; Patrick Fisher of Bloomington was in Hennepin, where the first day of Derek Chauvin's trial was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Monday, March 8, 2021. He said he had placed flowers outside the county government center (Elizabeth Flores / Start Review via AP)

A man put a flower outside the court in Minneapolis, where former police officer Derek Chauvin is trying to kill George Floyd. (Elizabeth Flores / Associated Press)

This week, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin saw a trial charged with murder for the death of George Floyd, a black man who tried to arrest him for buying cigarettes using a fake $ 20 bill. At that time, I was making a fuss.

I don’t know what I expected, but the defense against racist killings wasn’t rooted in racism.

Chauvin’s team has doubled the hope that by agitating racial horror, at least one jury can be convinced that police are better than the big and scary black demons. ..

That’s not what we saw when the video of his encounter with Floyd surfaced last spring.

A nine-minute video of Chauvin kneeling on his neck, handcuffed, and dying face down on the street has sparked weeks of protest all over the country and around the world. It focused on police atrocities and structural racism for those who had never felt the need to pay attention.

With the commitment of the protesters Crowd diversity It was encouraging to see at that time. It made me believe that we are in the midst of significant social change. It’s a move towards the true philosophy of an important black life.

Currently, that perception is being tested in Minneapolis courts and is inseparable from American race and police dynamics.

And racist tactics have already begun.

On the first day of this week’s trial, prosecution witnesses were told by defense counsel Eric Nelson about the rippling flow of anger at a small group of people watching from the sidewalk while Chauvin continued to lock Floyd to the ground. I was cross-examined.

“Isn’t it an exaggeration to say that you were getting more and more angry?” Nelson asked Donald Williams, a black man who was constantly begging police to breathe Floyd.

Williams, a guard and mixed martial arts fighter, knew he wouldn’t feed. “I grew up professionally and professionally. I stayed in my body,” Williams replied. “You can’t fill to offend me.”

Anger is not always an inappropriate emotion when watching police officers casually kill a man in custody. Anger has driven protesters to the streets. However, black men are not allowed to get angry without being considered a threat.

Chauvin’s lawyer understands that. So, to dull the effects of the terrible video, Nelson points the camera at the crowds on the scene, implying that they tend to be horribly uncontrollable and violent.

In reality, only a dozen people gathered on the sidewalk separated from Chauvin and Floyd by armed police officers. Some in the crowd shouted, shouted, and begged Chauvin to keep Floyd alive. And some beat the officers because they knew it was an unnecessary atrocities.

In Nelson’s story, those spectators were villains and Chauvin was a victim. Their anger made the police feel threatened and distracted him from properly caring for the man under his knees. The defense story aims to transfer responsibility for Floyd’s death from Chauvin to a terrifying group of blacks intended to confuse the police.

That blame-changing perspective is incorporated into standard strategies for protecting police officers in court: humanize officers, dehumanize victims … and those who look like them as needed. ..

This is a centuries-old stereotyped tactic that portrays black men as inherently dangerous. Still, it is the recourse of a desperate defense lawyer for important reasons: it has been very successful in keeping abusive police officers away from prison.

We had that experience here in Los Angeles almost 30 years ago when the whole world watched the next video. Rodney King is being beaten Pulp by a flock of policemen — but the jury acquitted the policemen and bought their claim that King’s “superhuman power” justified all the blows he suffered.

If the victim is black, the strategy of demonizing the victim works particularly well because it activates the unconscious racial prejudice that the jury unknowingly brings to court. Studies show that people of all races tend to overestimate the size, weight, and strength of black men, recognizing that black bodies are more threatening than white bodies.

so A series of studies In 2017, people asked to estimate the height, weight, and fitness of young men based solely on facial photographs rated black men as always larger and stronger than white men of the same size. .. And when asked to evaluate racially ambiguous photographs of the male body, people rated the body stronger and more frightening when the subject was said to be black.

In the same series of studies, white participants rated black men as more likely to do harm than white men of the same height and size. And they also believed that police would be justified by using more power to conquer black men.

Awareness of the dangers associated with black men begins early and is woven into our thoughts over time. Even in sixth grade, when one kid shows a picture pushing another kid and asks if they are fighting or playing, white kid is more friendly and black kid is more threatening. Was thought to be.

These types of deep-seated stereotypes are painful to admit and difficult to remove. But for black life to be truly important in this country, it is necessary to recognize and reject such biased thinking.

There is more at stake in court than Derek Chauvin’s guilty or innocent and George Floyd’s legacy.

The question is what the murder jury will eventually see: a tactical failure by a puzzled police officer trying to manage a huge threat-or not driven by the plea of ​​a dying man suffering from breathing. The revocation of mankind by a ruthless police officer.

This story was originally Los Angeles Times..