It is truly a national tragedy that, following the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests and riots, the political left and right retreated once again into their respective ideological foxholes and threw the option of bipartisan unity and progress to die on the battlefield.
On the right, political commentator Candace Owens tweeted
“I’ve had time to reflect on my video about #GeorgeFloyd and you guys were right—I was very wrong. He went to prison 9 times, not 7. I missed two earlier convictions for theft and drugs. But he started a new chapter with meth & fentanyl—so let’s throw our hero 2 more funerals!”
Such nuanced commentary was also not to be found on the left. In a NYT op-ed, author Miriame Kaba wrote:
“When you see a police officer pressing his knee into a black man’s neck until he dies, that’s the logical result of policing in America. When a police officer brutalizes a black person, he is doing what he sees as his job.”
These hot takes are not useful to any American of sensibility. Attacking the character of George Floyd two weeks after his body lay cold on a Minneapolis street is not helpful– it’s insensitive, ineffective, and fulfills the worst stereotypes of conservatism: uncaring, brutish, indifferent to the suffering of the historically marginalized.
Claiming that hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers across the nation see racist police brutality as part of their job description is not helpful– it’s slanderous, unprovable, and fulfills the worst stereotypes of liberalism: hysterical, generalizing, willing to overlook nuance in service of a narrative.
As an American, and a minority to boot, both these extremes are repugnant and fall far below the quality of the response to which free people are called. The takeaway from 2020’s racially-conscious summer should not be a renewed focus on race.
The takeaway is that we need to reexamine policing in this country with a view to preserving individual liberty.
This is something conservatives are admittedly reticent to do; the culture on the political right is one that holds law enforcement officers in reverence. While we should applaud the bravery of those who risk their lives to protect freedom, we should also recognize the reality of the police: the police are a potential threat to individual liberty we can never completely mitigate.
We would not have to worry about gun-control laws if there were no police to enforce them. While some have demonstrated willingness to stand by their oath, it is inevitable that when gun-control laws need enforcement, LEOs will have to make the perilous choice between career and country. Additionally, the doctrine of qualified immunity has been markedly criticized as vague and deeply flawed. As an American, the idea of a government entity both capable of violating constitutional rights and immune from liability fills me with both consternation and anger.
I don’t want to live in an America where the phrase “I feared for my life” is sufficient to justify police brutality and leaves offenders immune from charges. I don’t want to live in an America where a police officer can shoot my child and be immune from charges. Every side of the political aisle should be willing to come to the table to keep us from becoming that America.