The video of George Floyd on the pavement, a police officer’s knee on his neck while he Floyd insisted he couldn’t breathe, stopped us all in our mental tracks.
That wasn’t easy. There’s been, for months and months now, just one story, and rightly so. Floyd’s death changed that.
You couldn’t watch and you couldn’t look away. It both chilled you to the bone and filled you with the fire of righteous indignation. Right, left, center — everyone felt an admixture of outrage for the act and empathy for the man who died, even if all the facts weren’t known.
That 10-minute video was quickly supplanted by other footage related directly to Floyd’s death but which managed to somehow be more dispiriting: a Minneapolis police station burning, Targets looted, Molotov cocktails hurled.
Not that there weren’t peaceful protests, but those weren’t what the networks were interested in covering, at least most of the time. When those exercising their First Amendment rights peacefully got some airtime, it was usually on a split-screen with either an angry leftist rabblement or burned-out family businesses bathed in the yellow light of street-intersection bonfires on the other side.
For some, this “insurrection” is all justified by Floyd’s death. For others, these riots are the antithesis of constructive action.
But you notice what was mostly missing in all of this? Floyd. That 10-minute video of him dying was reduced to B-roll. There wasn’t anything burning in it, after all.
No, we can’t watch the video of Floyd dying on a loop, ad nauseam. We can’t look away from the unrest, either. What we can do, however, is focus on the good — where and if it can be found.
I present to you Denzel Washington — a Hollywood legend who helped defuse a tense moment between Los Angeles police officers and a homeless man in the midst of a fraught moment.
This happened last week, mind you, before the Floyd case became our newest national obsession. However, there is a connection, difficult though it may be to see at first.
Washington’s representative told CNN the actor stopped when he saw a homeless man in “the middle of a busy intersection” who was in “danger of being struck by oncoming traffic.”
The subsequent interaction was caught on video and eventually posted to Twitter by former NBA star Rex Chapman.
“Denzel Washington saw a commotion in West Hollywood with cops and an unarmed distressed homeless man,” Chapman wrote in the Thursday tweet.
“He got out of his car and served as a barrier between the man and the police — helping to diffuse a tense situation. This man was arrested safely.”
Denzel Washington saw a commotion in West Hollywood with cops and an unarmed distressed homeless man. He got out of his car and served as a barrier between the man and the police — helping to diffuse a tense situation. This man was arrested safely.?❤️ pic.twitter.com/4UyYdX1vT6
— Rex Chapman?? (@RexChapman) May 28, 2020
Another video shows a police officer talking about the encounter, explaining that Washington helped get the man out of the road. When police arrived, they determined the man didn’t want to harm himself or others; Washington gave the man a mask to protect himself against the coronavirus.
Want 2 know what really happened with #DenzelWashington and the #LAPD last week while he was being a #goodsamaritan ? Get the real story : this is how an encounter with the cops is supposed to end #turnyourclicksintocash pic.twitter.com/Vcy2ybq9tk
— MoPhoPix (@MoPhoPix) May 28, 2020
“We intervened, spoke with the individual and determined that he did not want to harm himself or others, and he was on his way, and Denzel left,” the officer said. “Denzel provided him a mask to protect himself from the environment and that was good. So Denzel helped us today.”
The officer called Washington a “very good Samaritan.”
And that’s one thing that escaped a lot of media that covered this — and while there was coverage, there certainly wasn’t a whole lot of it: Washington helped out police officers in a tough situation.
Law enforcement officers don’t usually have a Hollywood star to defuse an encounter that could turn ugly. Of course, it’s not that police’s presence makes that encounter turn ugly or that the police are responsible for it going badly.
What these videos prove is the one thing the media almost always fail to remember in these trying times: The vast majority of policemen aren’t just good, they’re heroes who put their lives on the line in difficult and thankless situations.
That’s a hard thing to remember these days for a variety of reasons, and I’ll admit to being guilty of it when I see overzealous law enforcement officers enforcing stay-at-home orders.
That said, what you saw in the videos above is what most of our police officers do on a daily basis — and, at least in this case, they had Denzel Washington providing backup.
While this happened before the death of George Floyd, it went viral in the midst of it. It couldn’t compete with urban conflagrations on CNN, though on social media, it didn’t go unnoticed:
— Gina Carano (@ginacarano) May 29, 2020
Can Denzel Washington go to Minnesota and teach a class? https://t.co/QJ036yy6Y4
— Joshua Gale (@joshuafett75) May 28, 2020
— Sharif Matar (@sharifmatar) May 28, 2020
While not casting aspersions on the peaceful protesters out there — who, like the good police officers, represent the vast majority of the cohort — what we’re seeing across the country right now is people burning down and looting their own neighborhoods.
The answer is the kind of Christian impulse Denzel Washington showed here.
Here was a man who put himself in harm’s way, not knowing if there was danger involved, to help a homeless man who was obviously mentally in extremis.
When the police arrived, he helped them defuse a dangerous situation. It didn’t come out until a week after the situation happened because Washington didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.
In a perfect world, the news would run two videos back to back.
The George Floyd video needs to be seen. We cannot look away. This sort of indifference to human life can’t be ignored.
But then, we’d show the Denzel Washington video.
It doesn’t make the death of George Floyd go away, but what I hope it brings to mind is 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
I cannot pass judgment here; that’s above my pay grade, as they say. It isn’t difficult, however, to guess who has met the test.
Alas, there is no perfect world where what the Apostle Paul called for will come close to happening.
Until the last fires die out, there’ll no doubt be camera crews fanning the embers, literally and metaphorically. By that time, it’ll be hard for most viewers to remember why these riots were happening in the first place.
It won’t be their fault. Perhaps it’s too much to ask, as the Apostle Paul did in 2 Corinthians, that our media examine themselves as well.
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