Beyond My Ken*

I get how someone, even a well-trained cop, can make a mistake. A split second gone off in a crazy, unintended direction. Catastrophic consequences. I get how that can happen. And even though I get how that can happen, I know that the origins of those split second catastrophic decisions often lie in the sediment of implicit bias and institutional racism. I get that. I don’t forgive such reflexes but I understand them.

I don’t get how a police officer can spend nine minutes killing someone and not think better of his choices. Especially with his colleagues and bystanders watching, aware that a camera is rolling and that the world will witness his murder of another person. He doesn’t once wonder if he will be able to explain this? he doesn’t question whether what he is doing is necessary in any way? He is not afraid of losing his job? the respect of his community? the love of his family? He doesn’t fear that God is watching him?

I cannot fathom this. That a person could have this level of entitlement, this apparent sense that whatever he did would be found to be justified, this profound and unquestioned belief that he would be immune from all consequences. I cannot fathom this. But I should be able to. I grew up in this country. None of this is new. And I shouldn’t let myself get away with my bewilderment. What happened is no rare 500-year flood. It is the flood and catastrophe and mayhem of last week, last month, last year, all the years I’ve been alive and more. That, I know. It’s the only thing I know.


What happened in Minneapolis on May 25th is detailed in this piece in the New York Times, “What We Know About the Death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.”

*ken: one’s range of knowledge or sight

4 Comments on “Beyond My Ken*

  1. Very well written, Jan. I just can’t make sense of it even as I know the details. And you are so right, we have lived this moment so many times in the past. The fires in Minneapolis reminded me of the images of Detroit burning in 1967.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll never understand it. Glad for the protests, hate the violence and destruction. Feels almost as wile and unpredictable as 1967+. We’re living through it again.


      • Maybe real change didn’t take place after the late 60’s??? Does it take a full-scale revolution, another civil war? I think I need a good cry, Jan.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. it is so incredibly horrible and utterly inhumane. no regard for a human being who looks different from you. my daughter is married to an African American man, and their children are bi-racial. everytime this happens again and again, they are forced to face a conversation with their children, especially their son, about the realities of the world we currently live in and they have to be extra vigilant to survive it.


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