Bystanders watched Derek Chauvin kneel on the neck of a prostrate, defenseless George Floyd for nearly nine minutes. They didn’t intervene. They called the police on the police. They filmed the whole gruesome affair, but not one bystander actually stepped in to potentially save Floyd’s life.
At the time, the optimistic take was simply that civilians are too scared to stand up to an armed cop. But after a year of lawlessness that has allowed murder rates to skyrocket back to 1990s levels, one thing is clear: Our broken culture has created a bystander crisis in America’s cities.
How bad is this crisis? Last week, residents of the District couldn’t stand up to a pair of teenage girls. A 13-year-old and a 15-year-old girl attempted to carjack an Uber Eats driver, 66-year-old Pakistani immigrant Mohammad Anwar. While bystanders filmed them, the teens assaulted him with a Taser then crashed Anwar’s car, killing him.
Mayor Muriel Bowser made the calculated decision to invite criminals to Washington. She let rioters loot D.C.’s disproportionately minority-owned businesses downtown for the better part of last summer, and the D.C. Council cut millions in police funding. But while we expect criminals to, well, commit crime, we don’t expect the rest of society to be OK with it. And yet, that’s precisely what’s happening in our nation’s city centers.
Not since the successes of the civil rights era has the nation been so obsessed with race, and despite the entire social justice cause du jour being about anti-Asian American hate crimes, residents of a city that went 92% for President Woke Biden just watched a South Asian immigrant get murdered in broad daylight.
Nobody is expecting the unarmed civilians of our nation’s cities to stand up to hordes of black-clad antifa militants in the dead of night. But two literal children assaulting a senior citizen in the middle of Navy Yard?
It used to mean something to be a neighbor. Not long ago, it would have been considered common courtesy to clock a 13-year-old punk if it might save a neighbor’s life.
The murder case against Chauvin has finally made it to trial, and the media have already revived their crusade to make Floyd a martyr for some anti-racist cause. But even more than a victim of racism — we still don’t even know Chauvin’s motives — wasn’t Floyd a martyr of the sort of culture that allows bystanders to do nothing while watching a man die in front of them? As in Anwar’s case, it was still daylight when Floyd begged for his life. He screamed for his mother. She had been dead for two years. And as with Anwar, the bystanders just watched.
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