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How to Turbocharge Black Lives Matter

June 12th, 2020 by dk

Rage and reflection don’t play well together. Rage brings all-consuming urgency and laser-like focus. Reflection looks longer and wider, noticing nuance. A deep response to social injustice will require both.

Four former police officers face charges related to the murder of George Floyd. Two of them, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, were rookies. They exited their probationary period shortly before tragedy befell Floyd. They had been policing the streets of Minneapolis for exactly four days.

Derek Chauvin, on the other hand, was a 19-year veteran and held the rank of training officer. Tou Thao had been a Minneapolis cop for 11 years. Both Chauvin and Thao have multiple complaints in their personnel file, averaging almost one per year.

The video that we’ve all seen — or heard about, for those who can’t bear to watch — was taken by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier. One particularly damning detail is the apparent nonchalance of Chauvin. He could see that he was being filmed, but he didn’t alter his behavior at all.

It was almost as if Chauvin was in training mode, patiently instructing two rookies how to properly execute the carotid sleeper hold to induce unconsciousness. His black gloves make it look like his left hand is in his pocket, waiting casually. His posture reminds me of a man waiting for a waffle iron to announce that breakfast is ready.

Lane twice asked if they should roll Floyd over. Chauvin refused. As Lane’s lawyer argued at the sentencing hearing, “What was my client supposed to do but follow what his training officer said?” After the video stopped, Lane gave Floyd CPR in the ambulance.

We should keep these two pairs of cops separate. Their culpabilities do not compare. Reflection also will benefit from some history. Frazier’s impromptu documentary has made George Floyd the Emmett Till of the digital generation.

In 1955, 14-year-old Till allegedly whistled at white woman in a Mississippi grocery store. For this infraction — roughly equivalent to using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes in Minneapolis — Till was lynched and brutalized.

The story might have ended there, except for two decisions. Till’s mother insisted on an open-casket funeral, so everyone could see her child’s mutilated corpse. Jet, a weekly newsmagazine for predominantly black readers, published photos from the funeral that shocked the nation.

Time Magazine named one of those photographs among the “most influential images of all time.” The brutality outraged millions, including Rosa Parks. The Montgomery bus boycott followed, led by a new Baptist preacher in town with a gift for eloquence — Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rage met reflection.

Two senseless killings. Two open caskets. Two viral photographs. Two nationwide demonstrations of outrage. Here’s where these two stories have not yet converged, but they could. Do you want to turbocharge the Black Lives Matter movement? History has shown us how.

If Floyd’s family and the protesters publicly forgave those two rookie cops, it would do more than send a powerful message. It would harness the power of love that Martin Luther King preached and modeled: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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  • 1 Robin Quirke Jun 13, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    It’s difficult for me to me to put into words how disrespectful I believe this opinion to be. I don’t understand how a white man would feel comfortable announcing how he thinks George Floyd’s family and protesters should feel in general, and then on top of that to ask them to forgive the rookie cops… I am just stunned. Have you read “me and white supremacy”? As a white-bodied person myself, I recommend it to all white folx. Without investigating how white supremacy has shaped our beliefs, we white people are like two-year olds wielding swinging swords, causing harm without intending to. We need to be more humble in how we value our opinions. Don, I wish you would use your RG privilege, and share your column space with Black voices– maybe you could just submit once a month, and the other Fridays could be outside of the white cismale perspective.