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Opinions of Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Columnist: Cameron Duodu

Surely, America is better than what we are seeing on television?

One hundred years ago or even later, a black man could be picked up by a group of white men in some states in the United States, accused on the spot with any crime that the white mob thought appropriate, and hanged to death on the nearest tree.

The false accusation often bordered on black men’s alleged attitude to white women; the black man would be said to have “leered” at a white man's wife or daughter. And he would be slaughtered for that, even though the allegation was false.

This act of group murder was often masked under a coded term – lynching. It has been inflicted on 4,000 black men (according to the The New York Times.) One of the latest instances of it occurred against a black youngster called Emmett Till as recently (relatively speaking) as 1955.

Therefore, when a white police officer knelt on the neck of a black man called George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 27, 2020 and choked him for almost nine minutes till he died, few black people were surprised. Their lack of surprise can be understood if it is considered that three other policemen stood by, unconcerned, whilst the murderer went about his business. “Hey, he’s killing a black man. So what’s the big deal?” their attitude suggested.

The statistics of blacks murdered by (usually) white police officers are, in fact, quite staggering.

Between 2013 and 2019, police in the United States killed 7,666 people, according to data compiled by Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. Despite constituting only 13 percent of the US population, black Americans are two-and-a-half times as likely as white Americans to be killed by the police.

One of the main reasons for this disproportionate killing of black men by the police is that white police officers who kill black men are usually let off.
It is usually other white police officers who record the facts related to the killings, and they invariably lie to cover the backs of their fellow white officers.

It is only when video evidence – usually captured by passers-by – is presented that they are charged. Even then, the charges might be minor, and where they are not, jury selection often ensures that white police officers charged with the murder of a black man are acquitted.

Even where video evidence points clearly to the murder of a black man by a white policeman, the state’s legal department that charges criminals often prefers lesser charges against the policemen than the crime merits. For instance, when the white police officer choked George Floyd to death, the officers involved were initially only dismissed from the Minnesota police department. It was only after there had been a monster outcry in the media, after a video of the incident went viral, that the officer who actually choked Floyd to death was charged. And guess what? He was only charged with “third degree murder”.

Now, third-degree murder in Minnesota involves “killing another person without premeditation and intent, through inherently dangerous acts, and with no regard for human life. “Inherently dangerous acts” may be direct or indirect. The charge of third-degree murder encompasses unintentional murders, “depraved mind” murders and certain drug-related deaths, including drug-induced homicide.

But malice can be involved in third-degree murder charges in Minnesota. If an individual intends to “harm” another person, but not kill that person, but the person dies anyway, charges of third-degree murder may be filed! You see how there is so much discretion involved: the District (State) Attorney can usually say that’s his interpretation of the law, and if his bosses agree with him, that’s the charge that will be laid before the court against the murderer.

Now, added to the fact that most judges in the US are elected and are therefore sensitive to the prejudices that affect their societies in general, plus the fact that a [usually] middle-class jury with a white majority, will probably consider the police as heroes who keep “black hoodlums” off the streets, punishment for the police hardly ever equals the crime they have committed.

In the current case, “a person convicted of murder in the third degree may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years and a payment of a fine of not more than $40,000.”

That’s what a black man’s life is worth in states like Minnesota.

As you may have seen on the television news, thousands of Americans, both black and white, do not accept this injustice that is blatantly applied to black men in a country whose constitution says that “All men are created equal.” A movement called “Black Lives Matter” is at the forefront of the political action that’s spreading throughout all the states to change matters.

How the District (State) Attorney could conclude that a deliberate murder, committed in full public glare and captured by accident on video, was without MALICE or was UNINTENDED, is beyond belief. And many Americans are flocking the streets, putting their own lives at risk, to tell him and his sort that they are making s mockery of the law schools they attended.

Certainly, the USA deserves better than be presented to the world through such horror events. Remember this is the country that voted for Barack Obama, a black person, to become the President of an overwhelmingly white country. Okay, it seems to have reversed itself by also electing Donald Trump to succeed Obama!

But the Obama episode does point to the fact that that country can definitely rise above racism. In fact, the TV news pictures do show that many of the participants in the demonstrations that have greeted the murder of George Floyd are white.

Whilst the presence in those demos of white racist elements cannot be dismissed, it must be accepted that there are white people in American who are so genuinely enlightened that they appreciate that injustice against blacks is injustice against everyone else, and that the American constitution must be allowed to work without being undermined by racists.

Certainly, not by racist policemen whose salaries are paid by the very people that they slaughter like chickens. It would help matters, I think, if the Minnesota District (State) Attorney who laid the third-degree murder charges against the murderer of a policeman were to be sacked and his law degree(s) withdrawn by the University that allegedly "trained" him.

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