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The psychology of destruction: The gain and groans from George Floyd’s death

George Floyd’s death has definitely drawn a destructive and fiery line in the sand. Partially, righteous. Partly criminal.
Credit: David Lynch
Protestors gathered in San Antonio for #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio is a city proud of a tradition of low-incident protests. The history books changed Saturday night when a peaceful protest was hijacked by lawlessness.

“It comes a time when, you know, people become sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Dr. Kevin Cokley said.

Cokley is the Director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin.

He said what we are experiencing is ‘Black Rage.’ The term is the title of a book released in 1968 by psychiatrists William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs. A 1992 edition was published too.

“They talked about the overwhelming sense of fear, anxiety, and anger at the oppressive conditions that Black folks have had to live under for so long.”

Now, according to Cokley, emotions boiled over when George Floyd was killed. His death caught on cell phone video, sparking outrage and protests.

Cokley wrote an op-ed for The Hill titled ‘When is enough, enough?’

In the article, case-after-case of African-Americans who died in officer-involved situations. Kentucky EMT Breonna Taylor shot eight times by Louisville Metro Police. Atatiana Jefferson who was shot and killed in her home by Fort Worth Police. Botham Jean was killed by an off-duty officer who said she went in the wrong apartment. More recently, Ahmaud Arbery, whose killing was caught on cell phone video. A concerned father and son claimed they thought he was a burglar.

Floyd’s murder felt familiar, Cokley wrote, to a 2014 chokehold that killed Eric Garner. Garner and Floyd’s words were the same as they expired, “I can’t breathe.”

The Houston native’s death may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“We tried to tell you all what’s been happening to,” He said. “We’ve tried to tell you about our experience, and you haven’t responded. But maybe now you will finally listen to us.”

But some are using the ‘Black Rage’ moment for personal gain. Instead of bringing attention to law enforcement issues, there are images of looting at high-end stores, restaurants, electronic businesses, and local businesses trying to keep their doors open during a pandemic.

San Antonio, Minneapolis, Columbus, OH, Boston, Atlanta, Santa Monica, and Washington D.C. have all been pilfered by looters.

“People who are misguided and see this as an opportunity to just take advantage of a situation,” Cokley said.

Their actions, according to Cokley, mar a righteous movement for a man who didn’t deserve to die as he did.

“If I had a chance to confront those individuals or to talk to those individuals,” Cokley said. “I would simply ask the question---how does looting this store honor the memory of George Floyd. I want you to explain that to me.”

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