The jury of 12 black, white and multiracial Americans repeatedly watched the video of white policeman Derek Chauvin kneel on the neck of the black George Floyd for 9 minutes 29 seconds until he died. How could they not convict, asks the Chicago Sun-Tribune. “Tuesday was a good day for America.” But as well as that damning footage, the jury witnessed another historic sight: “cops finally crossing the thin blue line to testify against one of their own”. Chauvin’s actions on May 25 last year were just too appalling. Across America, good cops knew that “the integrity of their profession, finally and unavoidably, was on the line”.
By the time the verdict was read out, “white America itself was on trial for the violent subjugation of black peoples”, says Karen Attiah in The Washington Post. During the trial alone, police across the country killed more than three people a day, more than half of them black or Latino. No wonder non-whites “feel trapped in the white imagination”, contorting themselves “to avoid triggering white fear”. A black colleague of mine owns a brightly coloured phone so no one will mistake it for a gun, and many black men avoid buying nice cars so as not to draw police attention. And yet the verdict brings hope that traditional police methods of “surveillance, control and subjugation” will be replaced.
After the verdict, President Biden told the nation the case had “ripped the blinders off” and revealed America to be systemically racist. For that the president “should be ashamed of himself”, says David Marcus in the New York Post. His declaration that America is “a dystopia mired in irredeemable racism is a leftist lie meant to undermine society”. Chauvin’s boss testified against him, a diverse jury found him guilty and police reforms are under consideration. “This is the system working.” But no, the country “must self-flagellate”, which reveals the progressives’ true agenda: America is racist to its core, “and not the Civil War, not civil rights, not the steady increases in black wealth and employment can change that”.
It’s true, “shouting at white Americans and accusing them of racism helps nobody”, says David Aaronovitch in The Times. And when ultra-liberals yell that no cop is innocent, “it’s not only patently absurd but pushes moderate people towards the opposite extreme”. But we should be under no illusion about what it’s like to be black in America. Biden is right: racism is America’s original sin. Instead of expiating it, many white Americans chose either “to slyly celebrate it in Confederate nostalgia or simply to deny it”. Above all, they need to realise that Floyd, murdered while out buying some cigarettes, has become “a metaphor for a broken society that badly needs mending. For all our sakes.”
The big picture
The decisive camera-phone footage of 17-year-old Darnella Frazier was “only one clip of a deluge of images” from the murder scene: from bystanders, security cameras and the police’s own body cameras. Taken together, they amounted to “a God’s-eye view of the killing”, says Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times. Compare that with the distant, lone video of Rodney King’s beating by Los Angeles police officers in 1991. On that occasion, the cops’ lawyers argued successfully that “the camera concealed as much as it revealed”. Not so with Chauvin, whose own body-camera footage proved damning.