Exactly one year ago, in Minneapolis, Minnesota for nine minutes and twenty nine seconds, Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd which resulted in his death. On April, 20th 2021, Derek Chauvin, the former white Minneapolis policeman, was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.
The verdict came at the end of a year characterised by the global struggle with Covid-19: deaths of loved ones, closed schools, lost jobs and lonelier lives. On May, 25th 2020 a brave teenager called Darnella Frazier’s mobile phone became the ‘eyes of the world’ as she stood and recorded George Floyd pleading for his life and his subsequent murder.
With nothing more than a mobile phone and sheer guts, Darnella changed the course of history, sparking a bold movement demanding an end to systemic anti-Black racism and violence at the hands of police. Without Darnella’s presence of mind and readiness to risk her own safety and wellbeing, we may never have known the truth about George Floyd’s murder. The impact of Frazier’s video extended far beyond Chauvin’s case. It led to the firing of three other officers at the scene, a ban on police chokeholds and a federal investigation.
Had it not been for Darnella Frazier’s quick thinking, Derek Chauvin might still be a Minneapolis police officer.
The late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel once said, ‘The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.’ This indifference and what it represents poses one of the biggest challenges for our broader society.’
The look of indifference in Chauvin’s eyes as he casually drained the life out of George Floyd was as chilling as his knee on Floyd’s neck. That look was freeze-framed in what the prosecution called “Exhibit 17.” It showed Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer, glancing casually at the crowd of onlookers while bearing down on an unconscious Floyd, who was handcuffed and pinned face-first to the pavement.
The look on Chauvin’s face was one of ‘indifference’ with his sunglasses perched on his head while his hand rested on his pocket. He didn’t seem to notice George Floyd at all. The only flicker of emotion on his face was his annoyance at the crowd that had gathered to plead for Floyd’s life.
That image will go down as one of the most defining images of our era because it tells a story about racism that many still don’t want to hear or believe. History suggests that this will be a huge challenge for the future.
Many people can’t muster the strength to watch the entire Floyd video. It’s just too painful. But plenty of people saw that image of Chauvin looking indifferent as George Floyd’s life ebbed away beneath him.
As we seek to bring about positive change, Chauvin’s face must serve as a sober reminder that ‘Indifference’ may be one of our biggest challenges.