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July 3, 2020

His Left Hand

“His Left Hand”

Scott Mayo

June 18, 2020 | 9:05PM

With the speed of our 24 hour news cycle, it’s easy to forget some of the details which sparked the global protests. I would like to look back at one particular detail I found particularly troubling.

As George Floyd called out for his deceased mother and took his last breath, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee pinned to Floyd’s neck while his hand casually rested in his pocket. His left hand. It was so nonchalant as if he had just finished having lunch. The only thing missing was a toothpick.

Since the worldwide protests against racial inequality began, I have often been asked by my white friends, “What can I do to help?” There are many things to be done. But if I were to choose, I’d have them focus on the one thing I just can’t get out of my mind … his left hand.

The reason I want my friends and anyone else to focus on Chauvin’s left hand is because of how relaxed his posture was as his knee choked the life out of a human being he was sworn to serve and protect. This one moment. This one casual move. The symbolism of this officer’s left hand spoke volumes about the depths and pervasiveness of the disrespect of black Americans, made even more flagrant by everyone’s ability to capture the whole event on their cell phone. It was just another day on the job where Chauvin knew he had the liberty and protection to take the life of a black man.

And therein lies the image that wakes me up in the middle of the night. How could he be so damn casual while he took a life? A father, a son, a whole person. He took all of that away in eight minutes and 46 seconds.

So I tell my friends to focus on Chauvin’s left hand hoping they will next look at his right hand, his knee, the other officers present who didn’t stop him from killing George Floyd, and ultimately, the system that encourages or protects an officer who feels the impunity to commit homicide in broad daylight.

If they can focus on that, my hope is this will cause them to empathize with the powerlessness the average black American feels when being confronted by the police. I sincerely believe that most police officers do their jobs with dignity and respect but, for the ones that don’t, the system allows them the elbowroom and flexibility to bend the law as they wish. Tragically, when “as they wish” is filtered through viewpoints antithetical to black lives mattering, the results can be, as we saw with George Floyd, murderous. 

Ultimately, I want my white friends to see this country through the eyes of black Americans and all people of color. I want them to embrace our rhythm and our blues. See our joy and our pain. Feel our sunshine and our rain. Walk with us in a protest, write a letter for us, send a check to support a worthy cause in the push toward equality or sit and listen to us tell you the things with which we’ve struggled. Then and only then can we begin to do the difficult work of writing the remaining chapters of our national story and endure to see real and lasting change for us and our children. 

But in this moment, it starts with his left hand.