The murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the white Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd last May, is under way and his supporters are proudly lining up in his corner. From right-wing media alphas like Tucker Carlson all the way down to the desolated white Americans from communities outside of the Minneapolis metro, Derek Chauvin is being hailed as a modern-day martyr for everything that America once was and is again.
On a recent broadcast of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Carlson said that the story that America was told concerning George Floyd’s death was an “utter lie,” and “There was no physical evidence that George Floyd was murdered by a cop.” Besides the fact that Carlson’s statements are completely fabricated — the autopsy in Floyd’s death showed the cause of death was compression of the neck or heart failure, (hence physical evidence) — the fact that Carlson is so eager to come to Chauvin’s defense is a good indicator of where race relations stand now in 2021 as Carlson only perpetuates such outlandish claims when there is a rabid audience chomping at the bit to eat it up.
A recent USA Today poll shows that the percentage of people who believe that Floyd’s death was the result of a murder dropped from 60% last summer to 36% last week — only 28% of white Americans called it a murder. But what is even more alarming is the number of people coming to Chauvin’s defense for his use of force in the first place. Murder is of course a legal term, but in what world do we live where a large portion of the population can watch a man beg for his life, while an indifferent aggressor shows him no mercy, and resolutely claim that the force was warranted?
If you want to hear from the people themselves, look no further than the comment section on the KSTP-TV (local Twin Cities news, ABC affiliate) Facebook feed where I estimate 7 out of 10 people show compassion for Chauvin over Floyd in their statements. It is absolutely alarming. It is almost as though these people like what they saw in the video of Floyd’s death. To many of us, the video not only made us sick and appalled, but was symbolic of the state of race relations in the US. But to others, the symbolism was instead representative of a return to a better time, when America was great — when white Americans could publicly commit acts of violence towards black people with no repercussions.
This is where we are in 2021: White America stands with Derek Chauvin. Chauvin is representative of what many whites see as an embodiment of true law and order — keeping black people in their place, at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. Donald Trump opened the door for this type of white pride and nationalism, and now millions are “standing back and standing by,” in anxious anticipation of a not guilty verdict. If he is acquitted, why not run Chauvin for some kind of high office? It is not too far-fetched to imagine that he could capture a large portion of the right-wing vote.
After all, he embodies everything that the Republican party seems to want from a candidate. He is a militant, brash, unapologetic white nationalist who is not afraid to wear his prejudice on his sleeve. His supporters see him as a victim, a white man that represents a system of antiquity under attack by people of darker skin tones. Chauvin had the gall to murder a black man in broad daylight, on camera, and it could pay off for him as his supporters would surely reward him with a title.
George Floyd called out for his deceased mother right before he took his last breath. That fact haunts this writer and produces in me a spilling over of emotion that I hoped I was not alone in feeling. But I am in the minority of white men who have an opinion concerning Floyd’s death, and that fact haunts me even more.