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How do we think about the George Floyd murder? Show more Show less
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On May 25 2020, George Floyd was suffocated to death by the police. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. In chilling footage that would go viral within 24 hours, officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes ignoring Floyd's repeated pleas for him to move. The asphyxiation led to his cardiac arrest. Floyd's death has so far inspired protests across more than 75 US cities, calling for an end to police brutality and institutional racism. The responses to these riots have included state-wide curfews, the threat of military intervention, attacks on the media and civilian arrests. The situation has given rise to a complex debate with commentators arguing over what precisely it has exposed about contemporary America. So, who are these groups, what do they stand for, and why?

Society creates the nation: George Floyd's murder exposes America’s deepening social cleavages Show more Show less

This approach believes that deep social divisions are at the heart of the issue. The murder has galvanised violence and unrest because of the more intrinsic identities that it represents.
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The riots have exposed a contradiction in American values - a contradiction perpetuated by right-wing politics

America prides itself in being the 'land of the free,' and yet George Floyd's murder is one in a long list of black Americans who do not enjoy that freedom. The denial of racism in America by many right-wing politicians only perpetuates the grave injustice.
America Protests

The Argument

America grounds itself as the ‘land of the free,’ and a beacon for the democratic values of Western society. In a piece for the Washington Post, Jonathan Turley writes, “Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries,” thereby self-prescribing authority in regards to the standard of human rights when compared to other countries.[1] However, Emma Brockes, a columnist for The Guardian, writes that the death of George Floyd draws attention to the fact that America is “a nation with its roots in white supremacy,” and that Floyd’s death crossed a line considering it followed in closely after that of Ahmaud Arbery.[2] The culmination of wealth disparity amongst Americans as well as the disproportionate violence towards black Americans has resulted in the exposure of America’s contradicting values. If the US is truly the land of the free, how can there be such gross inequality? When more than forty million people cannot trust the police force to protect them from crime and injustice and see the police as the main outlet of persecution against them, then America is not the ‘land of the free’ but of the privileged. President Trump only plays into the denial of racism in America and does nothing to uphold the constitutional right to freedom for every citizen.

Counter arguments

Whilst America’s central values around freedom are for the individual, this means that the individual is also responsible for how they exercise their freedom. To whatever extent the criminal suspicion surrounding George Floyd goes to, it is evident that there was at least some grounding for the police arresting him. This analysis is not a justification for his murder, but at best an explanation that attempts to look at whether Floyd's death is the best example for activists and reform. Freedom is essential, but its abuse has consequences, and they uphold a moral society which is safe for as many people as possible. Moreover, whilst the principle behind the BLM protests are entirely justified and come from a desire to fight for equality, some abuse the opportunity and choose to commit criminal acts and therefore tarnish the name of the movement. When someone breaks the law, there are punishments to deter others from also breaking them. George Floyd’s death was not justified, but the reason for his arrest may have some legitimacy. Ultimately, America’s values are not contradictory, and the only responsible way to exercise freedom for all is to have rules in place that prevent people from abusing this freedom.

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-the-united-states-still-the-land-of-the-free/2012/01/04/gIQAvcD1wP_story.html
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/04/killing-george-floyd-american-denial
This page was last edited on Monday, 9 Nov 2020 at 22:52 UTC

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