George Floyd and the Legacy of Bigotry

At HardWired News, irreverent humor is our stock-in-trade.  Remember our tongue-in-cheek pieces on the disease “Liberalitis,” our lampooning of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, or the suggestion that Millennials be sent to “re-education camps”?  All good fun at the expense of otherwise serious topics of the day.

But some things just aren’t funny.  And those things include bigotry aimed at humans, bigotry’s cousin—racism, lynchings and other murders.  We cannot but be horrified at the image of George Floyd systematically strangled to death under the knee of a police officer.  Public rage at this and other such incidents is natural and right.

Sometimes, though, the supposed cure is as bad as the disease.  The response to the Floyd murder included protests, which are understandable and even constitutionally protected.  But that spilled into arson, looting, murder, villainizing the police while calling for their abolition or even, in some extreme cases, their killing.  “Woke” politicians and other invested uber’-liberals apologized for or even endorsed some of these outrageous measures.

We all viscerally get what bigotry is: colloquially, attributing presumed characteristics of one or a few people to all in the group to which they belong.  Beliefs that black people are lazy, Jewish people are greedy, or Polish people are dumb are all examples of foolish, harmful bigotry.  Any intelligent person knows that this kind of bigotry is both morally wrong and stupid.

The outrage over George Floyd’s murder resulted in a collective cry condemning racial bigotry and the actions it causes.  Because of Floyd’s killing and similar acts undeniably founded in racism in the past, police were condemned en masse’, with calls for their wholesale disbanding and harsh punishment.  The irony and profound illogic are that such calls are precisely the same type of bigotry the protesters, politicians and pundits are condemning.  The kind of bigotry used to oppress black people for centuries.  In the instant case, it applies to police in general the attributes and propensity for mayhem exhibited by only a tiny minority of them.  And it calls for action to be taken against all people in the group—e.g. the police—for the actions of a statistical very few.

“So what,” one might say.  “An eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth.”  The police are hardly an oppressed underclass.  They have had it good for a long time and can fend for themselves.  “Payback is a bitch.”

The crimes against Floyd and others like him are undeniably rooted in racism born of bigotry.  But to use exactly the same logic toward police, whites in general, or any other groups one might select, justifies and perpetuates that type of thinking.  It gives permission to other bigots who have simply picked a different group to rage against.  Each bigot thinks their target group is genuinely vile and their own opinions are justified.  Hitler doubtless thought he was truly helping the German people by ridding them of rotten characters when he incinerated four million Jews.  Such is the nature of bigotry.

No one can argue against punishment of policemen who are offenders, better training, banning chokeholds, stronger civilian oversight and the like.  But seeking retribution against police as a group is only a form of bigotry that validates and encourages it against others, including people of color.  Those of us who favor civility, compassion, and racial fairness must avoid the most base temptation to embrace bigotry and metaphorical lynching of groups with which we are angry if we truly care about victims like George Floyd.

That’s our opinion, and we’re stickin’ to it.  Maybe—just maybe—we can find something funny to write about next time.

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