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Check Out The Details of George Floyd’s Criminal Records Part Five




 From: Check Out The Details of George Floyd’s Criminal Records Part Four


Why People Draw Attention to Criminal Histories of Black Men Who Die in Police Custody

For decades, corners of the internet and journalists have highlighted the criminal records of non-white people killed by authorities or caught in viral videos, no matter the relevancy of the rap sheets.

One of the uglier examples is the case of Charles Ramsey, a self-described “scary looking black dude” who helped rescue Amanda Berry, a Cleveland woman who had been kidnapped and held hostage for years in a home near Ramsey’s, in 2013. His interviews about the rescue spread like wildfire online, but then a local TV station aired a story on his criminal past (it was later removed and the station apologized).

More similar to the case of Floyd are the above-mentioned examples of Sterling and Martin, Black men who died at the hands of police and a neighborhood watch volunteer, respectively, and whose histories were trotted out in news stories after they died, seemingly as part of an effort to deny them martyrdom.

Advocates for police reform say the pattern puts unjust blame on victims of police violence and distracts the public from the most important issue at the center of these incidents: Officers too often resort to violence when dealing with citizens, especially if they are Black, indigenous, or people of color.

Kevin O Cokley, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies police brutality against Black Americans, explained the psychology behind the media pattern in an email to Snopes. Of people calling attention to Floyd’s criminal past, specifically, he wrote:

It fits into what psychologists have called the just-world hypothesis, which is a cognitive bias where people believe that the world is just and orderly, and people get what they deserve. It is difficult for people to believe that bad things can happen to good people or to people who don’t deserve it. This is because if people know that these things do happen, they have to decide whether they want to do something about it or sit by silently knowing that there is injustice happening around them.

Furthermore, his colleague Richard Reddick, an associate dean in the university’s College of Education, told us in a phone interview the claims about Floyd were also a product of the era’s highly polarized media environment, compounded by years of problematic storytelling by politicians and reporters that portrays Black men only as “criminal entities” instead of nuanced people. He said:

This is something that Black men are subject to quite a bit — not often seen as complex, whole human beings, who have done wonderful things and not so great things in their lives, but simply a criminal. … This is something that seems to be very specific to Black men who are ex-judiciously murdered; we have to find a rationale, or excuse, or justification for it, no matter what it was.

In other words, he said, shifting the public narrative away from police officers’ actions and onto Floyd’s criminal history is a reoccurring communication strategy “that’s intended to make us not see him as a victim, to dehumanize him, and to make him a caricature.” People can subscribe to the “he had it coming” trope so they don’t have to feel sorry for the victim of police brutality and can deny police responsibility for their actions, Reddick said. He added:

I don’t trust the motivations of the folks bringing this forward. … Of course they’re asking, ‘Why isn’t [Floyd’s criminal history] covered in the major media?’ And it’s because it’s not relevant to this kind of story. What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis has nothing to do with what happened to him, what he did, in 2007.

To that point, Reddick said Floyd’s past arrests and incarcerations may justifiably appear in “wholesome portraits” about Floyd’s life (such as this AP story), while O Cokley said the news media should not include the background in its stories about Floyd because it “has no relevance to the officer’s behavior,” and because “there is no standardization of the inclusion of background information on stories involving victims of police misconduct.” Reddick summed up the phenomenon like this:

We shouldn’t conflate the complexity of a person’s life with an event that ended with their life being lost — those moments and that time is relevant, but not a criminal conviction from years prior because this is supposedly a country where, when you’ve served your sentence, you’re now able to go rebuild your life, as what he was trying to do.

In January 2013, after Floyd was paroled for the aggravated robbery, people who knew him said he returned to Houston’s Third Ward “with his head on right.” He organized events with local pastors, served as a mentor for people living in his public housing complex, and was affectionately called “Big Floyd” or “the O.G.” (original gangster) as a title of respect for someone who’d learned from his experiences. Then in 2014, Floyd, a father of five, decided to move to Minneapolis to find a new job and start a new chapter.

“The world knows George Floyd, I know Perry Jr.,” said Kathleen McGee, his aunt (in reference to her nickname for Floyd), at his funeral on June 9, 2020. “He was a pesky little rascal, but we all loved him.”

Rumors are surging in the wake of George Floyd’s death and resulting protests against police violence and racial injustice in the United States. Stay informed. Read our special coverage, contribute to support our mission, and submit any tips or claims you see here.

Began From: Check Out The Details of George Floyd’s Criminal Records Part One

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