November 4, 2008, All Over Again


The unsurprising news that a Minneapolis jury voted to convict Derek Chauvin has unleashed a wave of self-congratulatory twaddle about “justice” from the political class unseen since the date mentioned above. Twelve years from now, though, it is likely to mean as little.

November 4, 2008 is the date Americans elected a man with the unlikely name of Barack Obama as their president. We were told, over and over, that this changed everything.

But last summer, after what should have been a local crime story in the Twin Cities became an international cause celebre and a symbol of what America is, was, and ever shall be, we learned that Americans might as well have elected David Duke on November 4, 2008. The election that we had been told changed everything actually changed nothing. America was still systemically, irredeemably racist.

By treating the Derek Chauvin trial and conviction as something other than an ordinary criminal trial with little greater import, we are making it all but certain that it will end up having as little lasting positive impact as November 4, 2008 did. Indeed, we are likely exacerbating racial inequalities by further destabilizing minority neighborhoods.

If, as a result of the media hype and political frenzy, police come to believe that courts and politicians will always side against them whenever there is a violent confrontation with a black suspect, they will stop enforcing the law in black neighborhoods, stop working for urban police departments that cover black neighborhoods, or both.  The result would be an explosion of criminal activity in the areas left unpoliced, to the detriment of all who live there.

Rather than amplify and politicize every questionable action by law enforcement involving a white cop and a black suspect, we would be better off to leave such matters to local governments, governments that likely have blacks in numerous positions of authority, just as the Twin Cities did.

And we would also be better off placing hope for racial reconciliation in a process that was underway well before November 4, 2008. More and more, ordinary Americans have people of different races among their friends and within their families. It is this human interaction, far away from speechmaking and television cameras, that has the potential to keep America and Americans together. More of the speechmaking and television cameras, though, will almost certainly push us apart.

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Tom Piatak

Tom Piatak writes from Cleveland, Ohio.

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