When CNN's reporter Omar Jimenez was arrested "live" while reporting on the George Floyd protests in Minnesota, it alarmed many who saw the event unfold, and underscored the fact that he was simply doing his job and did not break any law or contravene any rules. As CNN on-air news personalities, as well as those from other mainstream media outlets, wondered aloud what was happening, one thing stuck out as a sore thumb: NOBODY CONDEMNED OR CRITICIZED the police. Sure, many queried if he did anything wrong or was just in the wrong place. You see, Jimenez is Black, African-American and Hispanic.
However, the interesting thing is not that Jimenez and his crew were released shortly afterwards without any charges filed (or even being told why they had been taken into custody), but it jived with exactly how cops behave towards Black and Brown people. And too, Jimenez works for CNN. Jeff Zucker, the CNN president, phoned and talked to Tim Walz, the Democratic governor of Minnesota, and the crew was quickly released. With an apology from the governor, not the cops. Cops do not apologize, especially to Black and Brown men.
Juxtapose Jimenez's experience with that of Josh Campbell, a white CNN journalist who was in the same area and was not arrested. Campbell publicly stated "on air" that his experience was the "opposite" of Jimenez's. The cops asked him - in his words - "politely to move here and there". "A couple times I've moved closer than they would like. They asked politely to move back. They didn't pull out the handcuffs."
Ah, that's the crux of the issue - two systems, one for white people, the other of Blacks. Its separate and unequal. So, yes, the US has "opposite" systems of justice. Jimenez's professional status and calm demeanor did not stop the police from treating him like a regular black man - the powerless subject of their vast authority to detain, brutalize and humiliate. They didn't have an actual reason to arrest him and they didn't need one. Jimenez's black skin was the offense.
This explains just how powerful and addictive the drug that white police privilege is. Consider this: Minnesota cops were policing a rally protesting police brutality and the public execution of an unarmed Black man. But tone-deaf, insensitive and filled with hubris, with the whole world watching, and thousands of viewers - if not millions - glued to their TV sets at home watching CNN, these cops just could not help themselves. They just had to "teach" those Black people a lesson, and show them who is the boss.
That should come as absolutely no surprise. Indeed, the event that triggered the arrest of Jimenez and his crew, was one where the whole world saw the brutal and violent murder of George Floyd. The cops that arrested a working journalist in full public view without a care in the world, are not expected to lose sleep over one of their kind killing an unarmed Black man.
Thing is the police treat other Black human beings like this all the time and get away with it and there are rarely any consequences. Think about this for a moment: US police officers kill about 1,000 people a year (compared to England, where in 10 years, law enforcement took a total of 23 lives). Since 2005, when roughly 15,000 people were killed by US law enforcement officers, fewer than 150 cops have been charged with murder, prosecuted or sent to prison.
Sure, the officers in George Floyd's murder lost their jobs. Now they face criminal prosecution for murder and aiding and abetting murder. This is only because of the overwhelming video evidence and the angry, nation-wide high-profile protests now going on two weeks. The reality is that, statistically, even these officers are likely to escape conviction. Of the 150 officers charged with homicide in the line of duty, the majority have been found not guilty, give a slap on the wrists, or had charges dropped.
Remember also, police in the United States arrest about 12,000,000 people a year, but not usually their own ilk. But for the rest of Americans, especially Black and Brown Americans, they usually get arrested and charged the same day the cops decide they are guilty. The "talk" Black parents give to young males about how to act around police is designed not so much to prevent arrests but to help save their lives. This worked for Omar Jimenez. But not for George Floyd.
So, beyond the massive street protests and demands for change what is to be done? And what can we expect? Just airbrushing and tweaking the criminal justice system will make little differences here and there. But that will not be enough. Let us for a moment consider this scenario: If a white woman was accused of trying to pass a fake $20 bill in a store, it's impossible to imagine the police storming her vehicle, ordering her and her friends out, placing her in handcuffs, and ultimately murdering her on the street in full view of the public. Heck, his colleague or partner would have stepped in a stopped him.
Herein lies the real problem of law enforcement in the United States today. White supremacy is the foundation upon which the American republic is built. From the time the first Africans were brought here as slaves to work on white plantations the American system sought to dehumanize and criminalize them, and promoted the supremacy of whiteness and the inferiority of Blackness. "The negro is a beast," they said and "civilizing him" by beatings and brutality was "good for him" they said.
So today, it's not a question of a few bad apple cops and the "vast majority of cops" being good, decent people. Yes, the four former cops charged in the murder of George Floyd, I believe, are rotten to the very core. It's about cops shoving a 75-year old white man on the fringes of a protest so hard that he ends up in hospital, and 57 white cops resign from their unit in protest after two of their members were charged with assault.
It's about a Black mayor so afraid of his own police department and the union that represents them that he puts on a pathetic performance on live television, twisting himself into all kinds of contortions, trying to explain away the incident in a way that obliquely supports the cops. And it's the gangland mentality on unashamedly display when this group of cops stand outside a courthouse and cheer when their two colleagues plead "no guilty" to assault charges. Imagine if the victim of that assault was a Black man.