Personal Responsibility? What Personal Responsibility? The Washington Post Explains How Aspiring Supreme Court Justice George Floyd Was Destroyed by Systemic Racism

Screen shot of George Floyd mural

You think I’m kidding, don’t you? Sadly, I’m not.

Here’s a silver lining: thanks to the parade of bizarre and illogical demands and assertions during the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck and the concomitant “Great Stupid,” my head appears to be immune from explosions. (Is head immunity anything like herd immunity? A topic for another time…)

It is amazing—I would have once said head exploding—that anyone would attempt to sanctify a long-time criminal and blight on his community like George Floyd, much less get away  with it. Nonetheless, months after Floyd died after a  cruel and incompetent (but not racist) police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck, the news media and Black Lives Matter flacks are successfully selling the tall tale that his life was a tragedy of unfulfilled potential because he had the misfortune to live in the United States of America.

[Quick review: Floyd moved to Minneapolis after being released from Texas prison for aggravated robbery. He went to jail 5 times and as a perusal of his record shows, he can be fairly described as a career criminal. Floyd was a habitual lawbreaker, involved in drug abuse, theft, criminal trespassing, and aggravated robbery, who once broke into a woman’s home and pointed a gun at her stomach while looking for drugs and money. He had probably taken an overdose of fentanyl and methamphetamine at the time of arrest, and it is quite likely that this, and not Derek Chauvin’s knee, is what killed him.]

I’m old enough, more’s the pity, to remember the Sixties fad of arguing that all criminals were victims of  their upbringing and a Hobbesian society for those who were not white and rich, and that it was heartless to punish those who were really society’s victims, not its predators. This was a very old progressive trope, notably championed by Clarence Darrow, who argued that there is no free will, and that criminals are doomed from birth, this making it an abuse of power for society to punish them. This logic was the epitome of bleeding heart liberalism, and helped make the word “liberal” a term of derision. I did not expect it to make a comeback.

Yes, I’m an idiot.

Now, however, in no less a legitimate forum than the Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa and Griff Witte make the argument that if the U.S wasn’t so racist, Floyd, despite all outward appearances, might have been a great American.

Read the thing, take a while to tape your skull back together, and then resume reading here. Watch out;  this is the third paragraph, and it comes up quick:

Early in life, he wanted to be a Supreme Court justice. Then, a pro athlete. At the end, he just longed for a little stability, training to be a commercial truck driver.

If I recall, I wanted to be Superman early in life.  Is that information really relevant to anything? I strongly suspect that if young George was really interested in a judicial career, he might have begun by learning some basics about the law, like, say “Don’t break it.” After Superman looked like a non-starter, I moved my ambition to the Presidency. By the fifth grade, I had read every book about Presidents I could find at the library. My parents started me off with a paperback that cost about three bucks. The Post article never explains how systemic racism prevents curiosity, initiative, and achievement.

[ Quick Review 2: George was one of five children born to parents who weren’t married, and followed the family tradition, also having five children with an undetermined number of women, setting those kids out on the same perilous life path he trod. Interestingly, I can find no example of a Supreme Court Justice who accumulated offspring out of wedlock.]

Some highlights on this long, meticulously researched ( “according to an extensive review of his life based on hundreds of documents and interviews with more than 150 people, including his siblings, extended family members, friends, colleagues, public officials and scholars”) rationalization for the failed life of George Floyd:

“Floyd was born in Fayetteville, N.C., in 1973, a time when Whites-only service at restaurants and segregated seating in movie theaters were fresh wounds.”

The Civil Rights Act had been passed a decade earlier. The Post’s argument seems to be that Floyd was handicapped for life by a system no longer in existence.

When Floyd was two days old, Maynard Jackson was elected mayor of Atlanta. It was the first time a major Southern city would have a Black leader.

Again, George Floyd was born into a U.S. where African Americans had legally ensured opportunities to succeed. He lacked the determination and character to take advantage of them

Schools remained deeply unequal as Floyd moved through predominantly Black classrooms in the 1980s and early 1990s. At Yates, a former “colored” school named for a minister who was born enslaved, test scores were low and dropout rates high, with the 1989 valedictorian — who was seven months pregnant at the time — noting in her graduation speech that more than half of freshmen had failed to graduate.

This paragraph is res ipsa loquitur. You have to make a special effort not to see the irony in it.

By the time Floyd left high school in 1993, he wasn’t academically prepared to go to college. But his athletic skills earned him a place at a two-year program in South Florida before he transferred closer to home — to Texas A&M University-Kingsville, a small, mostly Latino school known as a pipeline to the NFL.

A cynical critic of this section writes, with some justification, “It’s so racist that if you’re a non-Asian minority, you’re more likely to get into college than a white or Asian student with the same test scores.”

Floyd, a tight end, went to practice every day, but he wasn’t making the grades or completing the credits that would have allowed him to get on the field.

Floyd had an opportunity. He didn’t make the most of it. Blaming anyone but himself makes him a victim of a not systemic racism, but cultural maleducation.

Floyd’s time in college ended with neither a degree nor a draft into professional sports. With his two planned routes out of Third Ward blocked, he moved back to Cuney Homes in 1997.

Blocked? Blocked? Who blocked them? Floyd was in complete control of whether he would graduate, or excel in sports sufficiently to make it his career. He also was responsible fr failing to use college to develop skills that would help him gain employment should his sports aspirations not pan out.

It didn’t take much time before he was in trouble with the law. Police — described by residents as an omnipresent force around Cuney Homes — arrested him in August 1997 for delivering less than a gram of cocaine.” 

Ah, if only Floyd had read a bit about what becoming a Supreme Court Justice entailed! Meanwhile, the Post’s argument is that the presence of police caused Floyd’s criminal conduct. After all, if a crime is committed without being detected, was it really committed at all?

“The most serious charge that Floyd faced was in 2007, for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. Prosecutors said the then-33-year-old and four others forced their way into a private home and that Floyd had held a woman at gunpoint while others ransacked the place, looking for drugs and money….After a plea deal, Floyd would spend four years at a privately run prison nearly three hours northwest of Houston.”

Mass incarceration! George Floyd received just four years in prison for armed robbery. The Post doesn’t mention it, but the victims were Hispanic, and the woman who had the gun pointed at her stomach was pregnant.

Anyone who finds the Post article to constitute a convincing argument that anyone but George Floyd—and the tragically self-destructive community that acculturated him— is responsible for his miserable, anti-social, drug- and crime-polluted life is not worth arguing with.

The scary question is: How many such people are there?

33 thoughts on “Personal Responsibility? What Personal Responsibility? The Washington Post Explains How Aspiring Supreme Court Justice George Floyd Was Destroyed by Systemic Racism

  1. I wish I could say that I had some kind of sympathy for George. He was 47 years old, give or take, at the time of his death. He wasn’t some inexperienced 13yo who let some 22yo small time fence feed him the line that all he had to do was pick up a few choice items when nobody was looking, and he’d get instant cash. He wasn’t some 20-something who decided he didn’t want to paint fences for ten dollars an hour when he could make $2500 a week selling crack. He’d also been in and out of the system, knew what happens when you get caught breaking the law, and knew that sometimes you DO get caught. There is no way he gets a pass on trying to flimflam someone with counterfeit money or on polluting his no-longer-so-young-and-invulnerable body with illegal drugs.

    He had his chance. He had several chances. He didn’t even make a real effort. Heck, he didn’t make an effort to STAY OUT OF TROUBLE. I’ve seen plenty of young and not so young black men end up dead in an alley or a parking lot because they didn’t pay someone, didn’t pay someone quick enough, looked the wrong way at something or someone of someone else’s, or just plain pissed off the wrong guy. Always their families say they were such good guys, they were just about to turn their lives around, they were just victims of circumstance. They’re ALL victims of circumstance.

    • There is no way he gets a pass on trying to flimflam someone with counterfeit money or on polluting his no-longer-so-young-and-invulnerable body with illegal drugs.

      One of the items that the officers’ lawyers are trying to get into evidence is a prior arrest of Floyd where Floyd was suspected of selling drugs, and when confronted Floyd swallowed the stash. His stash consisted of a lethal dose of fentanyl and the only reason Floyd lived was a quick ambulance trip to the hospital. The officers certainly have a stronger defense if it is pointed out that Floyd has a habit of consuming a lethal level of drugs in an attempt to avoid arrest and conviction. What is in evidence is the medical examiner stating that he’s had someone brought in, had 1/3 the fentanyl level in them, and ruled it a suicide alone. Put those together, and it seems pretty likely that Floyd did it again. He knew he was about to have contact with the police, and decided to swallow the evidence again.

      It also points out to a severe inability to learn for Floyd. Consider that the prior event still resulted in two things: He nearly died, and he still went to prison because they pumped a sizable amount of fentanyl out of his stomach. In spite of those two consequences, it looks like he did it yet again.

  2. We’re in another cycle of criminal justice “reform”. Prior to the 60’s, the US justice system was pretty harsh. It appeared to also be loaded with examples of injustice, but I can’t be certain if that’s selective history or reality, but I am inclined to this the latter.
    One of the results of the 60’s “reform” was the drastic reductions in time the convicted spent in prison. Sentences became like automobile MSRP or doctor pricing: you just applied a discount factor. What one actually served was a mere fraction, far less than sentenced. Murders started getting a decade of actual time, rapists, armed robbers and other violent crime got months. The result was easily predicted, a skyrocketing crime wave that saw the late 1970s and most of the 1980s as the most violent and crime ridden in the country’s history.
    The 1990’s saw a new wave, “sentencing reform”. We saw increased sentences, true life, truth in sentencing and 3 strikes laws enacted. We saw older juveniles sent to the adult justice system. Crazy enough, it was a democrat, Bill Clinton who championed this at a federal level. It worked, we saw the aughts and the first half of the teens with a plummeting crime rate.
    Now the progressives are making a comeback with their wishes, and we’re seeing the laws rolled back. This is at the same time we’ve got activist DA’s getting elected who won’t prosecute unless you’re a conservative. (See the 70% dismissal rate of riot related charges in Portland.) Pile on the “defund the police” movement, and the attacks on policing that result in a blue flu. Shockingly, we’re seeing the big cities yet again with skyrocketing crime.
    I just hope this time around that the more divided country results in the “reforms” not happening for half of the countries. Let the progressive run places turn into a total hell-hole and leave us alone. All we need to do is educate their middle and upper class refugees to not bring their progressive ideas along with them and ruin the rest of America.

    • I was in high school during the peak of this crime wave.

      I remember thinking, being that the Cold War wasd over, why not have the United States Army come home and deal with the problem once and for all. I mean, they have all this advanced equipment, far better equiped tyhan local police, who were clearly failing to protect us.

      Remember Stephanie Kuhen. I was outraged! I was outraged that the mightiest military force in the world did not protect her, was not protecting any of us. what was the point of spending all those hundreds of billions of dollars on tanks and helicopter gunships and combat gear if they will not be used to protect us?

      The enemy was within our borders, and we were not pulling all stops to defeat them!

      The solution was so simple, so obvious!

  3. One question I had was why Floyd was on the ground on the street side of the police car? Nothing addressed this, and a couple of the early sources noted that he was seated on the sidewalk prior to winding up on the far side of the vehicle.

    I found one published bodycam video, and it was quite interesting. First, the police enter the tobacco shop and talk with the likely immigrant owner. He has a full-size pistol in his back pocket, so would be interesting if the shop’s inside video would show why he felt it was warranted to have it at hand. He describes the vehicle and officers tell him to stay inside.

    The officers cross the street and one uses his flashlight to knock on the window. Floyd follows instructions for the only time by opening his window. EVERY command after this is ignored, or only followed after it had been repeated four or more times, and only followed for a few seconds. Easy commands like “keep your hands on the wheel”. He is hysterical. Guns are drawn because officers cant track the hands flying about wildly for who knows what is in the car. Floyd is pleading not to be shot and complains of being shot by officers in a stop before. (Is this true?? Can’t find anything documenting this.)

    Floyd is depicted by the media as a middle aged, overweight man. He’s not. He’s very fit. His arms appear to be twice the diameter of what you see in the infamous kneeling picture.

    He’s cuffed, sat down against the building, identifying information given, searched, then shortly later told to go into the police vehicle. Struggle continues. Someone speculates PCP. No Miranda or arrest statements are read, bargains like “let me count to three, then I’ll sit down” are thrown about. Eventually an officer crawls across the back seat to pull and help officers unable to make any progress by pushing.

    Fast as a wink, George is all the way through the car and struggling with the lone pulling officer. Others run around the car and assist, now George gives up and lies down. Even handcuffed and belly down, George pulls his left arm across his back to one side to try to push himself up. It’s been more than ten minutes now. You can start to hear the complaints from bystanders. “We tried that for ten minutes now!” one officer responds truthfully.

    That was all I could bear to watch. This is where bystander’s video that’s already been seen by everyone begins anyway. Context matters.

  4. The Washington Post piece is a masterpiece in deflection and accusation. Damn cops made him do it. It it weren’t for those damn barbeques and video games keeping in from his studies, Floyd would have gotten better grades, graduated from college and on his way to fulfilling his dream of being a Supreme Court Justice. Or football player. Either way, . . .
    As for Cuney Homes, that area is in the southeast side of Houston and much of what is written about it is true. What is not written about is that local residents go nuts when the City proposes some kind of gentrification plan, which stops the City from taking any action, aside from Annise Parker declaring the types of homes in that area to be historical home sites, terribly limiting the ability of residents from rehabbing the properties. Law of Unintended Consequences, and all.

    I am fascinated that every minute of this man’s life has been investigated and lionized. You would think he is on the path to canonization. St. George has a nice ring to it.

    jvb

    • From the wiki article about the Cuney Homes public housing project: “There is the Cuney Homes Adopt-A-Family Program which allows area residents to “sponsor” Cuney Homes residents by giving them charitable assistance.” Not sure how to classify this program? White supremacy? Systemic racism? Disrespect? Any critical race experts out there to unpack this for me?

  5. Yeah. I should’ve inherited from Ted Williams the mantle of the greatest hitter who ever lived. But, you know, incompetent coaches, too poor to go to baseball camps… Gimme a break, Stupid World.

      • Don’t get me started on batting cages. Hell, Dad never even bought me a ball. I, and we, “boys in the ‘hood,” just found balls lying around, abandoned, sometimes in spots one might never look. I found at least one stuck in a tree, only because I had climbed the tree to get a good look at a bird’s nest (wanted to see if any eggs were in it, so I could identify the species – meadowlark, as I recall). Dad was too busy playing golf.

        No, I learned hitting the do-it-yourself way: playing all alone for hours every day, spring to fall. I tossed up the ball in front of myself, straight up a foot or two, then quickly gripped the bat – or board, or stick – with both hands, and waited for the ball to fall into my strike zone. Hit it, retrieved it, repeated. Played imaginary games in an imaginary league for a typical length of season – even did my own announcing, like those men on TV and radio. No World Series, though – I had only one league. But I had names for all the players and managers – even used the phone book and other sources to concoct names, and set the rosters for all the teams. One day, I played a tripleheader.

        Back to hitting: I learned to hit and to sense my “regulation” strike zone with those little vertical tosses. (They helped me to learn early how to catch fly balls dependably, too -even “acrobatically,” now and then.) After a couple of summers playing alone, I was finally given the chance to play on a real Little League team.

        Well, those pitches coming toward me horizontally seemed to take forever to arrive, compared to those split-second vertical DIY tosses. I knocked the crap out of pitched balls. I remember thinking to myself, after my first turn at LL batting practice, “I could tie my shoelaces and take a pee waiting for that coach’s throw to come to me.” The other players were afraid of me; I literally heard one say to another, “We better stay away from that guy.” I’d hit the ball to, say, the shortstop, and he would close his eyes, turn his head, and jump out of the way. “That’s not how they do it on TV,” I thought. Yeah, being a “prominent” player was fun while it lasted. I had a Lucky childhood…

        I am mourning the death of Joe Morgan. He truly was MY first favorite player – despite Williams, Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Clemente…so many more greats. That little twitch of his arm – like he was cocking a gun. So many kids imitated that (but not me). Hilarious!

  6. 30 years from now, when I’m in my dotage, I’ll be reading about the systemic racism of the early 21st century. Only it won’t be about what the Post describes here. Instead, it will be about how we set rock-bottom expectations for African Americans, and gave them scoundrels for heroes.

  7. It’s debatable as to whether Chauvin’s actions were “cruel and incompetent.” The knee-on-neck move is a standard technique for restraining resisting suspects.

    What actually happened is that Floyd was already dying of a drug overdose that afternoon and happened to do so at the very moment he was being restrained and filmed.

    Just bad luck for everyone involved. Nothing more.

    • He was on his neck way, way too long. That doesn’t make him a murderer, but it does make him brutal. There are four cops! What possible excuses kneeling on a perp who is in obvious distress?

      • The badge cam footage shows George overpowering the four cops constantly the six to eight minutes prior to the neck hold, putting himself and others repeatedly in danger. I’d say it’s quite justified and the officers showed, for lack of a better word, restraint in their response of being constantly thwarted in their duties.

      • Floyd was 6’4” and 230 lbs. He dwarfed the officers and was able to successfully resist being placed into the police vehicle by Lane and Keung while cuffed. It wasn’t until he fell onto the ground that Chauvin, Lane, and Keung pinned him down.

        I think you, along with the general public, underestimate the damage a man can do to himself and others, especially one of that size. You can’t reason with intoxicated people.

        • I don’t underestimate that at all. At all. (And the news media has barely reported Floyd’s size.) But this is basic: police officers need to have sufficient judgement to keep those they arrest from dying under their care. That isn’t too much to ask.

          • Lane, Keung, and Chauvin had no idea about Floyd’s poor health or that he was in the middle of a drug overdose. Once he was unresponsive, however, a call was immediately placed for an ambulance. The officers made reasonable decisions.

            Floyd being on the ground was the safest place for him to be, especially since they were all on a busy street. Sitting or standing him up would have risked him bolting, based on his previous behavior.

      • The mere fact that it took four of them to restrain him makes it hard to sell the idea that he was in distress. I have told many people many times that the best thing a resisting suspect has going for him is that 3 or 4 cops are there to overcome his resistance; If it is one on one, someone is not going “directly to jail”, but rather a hospital or the morgue. There is no referee to invoke standing eight counts or send someone to a neutral corner. Those one-on-one street events are brutal. Experience speaking here.

        • Like with Eric Garner? The number of officers-level of distress relationship seems fallible at best. Hey, I’m sympathetic to the cops up to a point: Floyd made his bed, as they used to say. I dount anyone can be convicted of murder. As with the Garner death, however, it seems like negligent homicide.

          • Maybe more like with Rodney King, who was also a POS with a criminal record, stoned out of his mind, and acting in a Hulk-like fashion against 8 (!) officers. Yes, the police overdid it, or one officer, Lawrence Powell, overdid it, by striking King 6 more times after he had stopped resisting. However, in the heat and adrenaline of a forcible arrest, it might be understandable, if not justified, to not quite stop soon enough, or think you needed to make sure all the fight was beaten out of a suspect. I’ve been in high-adrenaline situations, sometimes it takes ten minutes or more for the adrenaline rage to wear off. I was in a fight once where I took out two other guys and drove a third off, just because I had gone so berserk.

            That said, there’s just no way of getting past public revulsion at these kind of tactics, especially this one, where Chauvin looked at best like that jerkass football player we all knew in high school kneeling on a smaller classmate and making him suck concrete for no other reason than he could (and the authorities wouldn’t touch him because they needed him for the upcoming game), at worst like some white overseer in the antebellum days pressing a black slave’s face into the ground to “learn him not to be uppity.”

      • Jack, Bobby Hill is correct. Chauvin went by the book HE knew. The less seasoned officers actually had learned a slightly updated book, and appealed to the senior officer on the scene (Chauvin) to adjust the restraint. Chauvin overruled. In the tension of that moment, he probably judged Floyd’s appeals as a ruse, “fake distress.”

        I made sure that before I wrote the above, I took off my white hood.

        • I don’t doubt it. But when you’re kneeling om someone’s neck, be says he can’t breath, and appears to pass out, you shouldn’t be following rulebooks, you should be reacting to the events at hand.

          • I would not have commented if I had not discussed the incident at length with a close family member who is a seasoned (but not “senior”) cop. A trustworthy guy.

        • No, Chauvin did NOT go by The Book. No way. He never called for reinforcement from Social Worker Rapid Response Team, members of the community who are highly trained and skilled in de-escalation techniques. The SWRRT would have saved Floyd’s life, and quite possibly directed Chauvin to proper diversity training he desperately needs to be an effective member of the community.

          jvb

          • On what basis do you conclude that he needs diversity training? As I’ve mentioned here a few times, there is literally no evidence that Chavin is racially biased—the journalists have searched and found nothing. He’s a bully and an equal opportunity asshole.

            • We all need diversity training. Why, it’s all the rage this year. It’s true!

              I guess my facetiousness wasn’t as amusing as I originally thought, but, then again, I think I am much wittier than I actually am.

              jvb

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