The Gaslighting of America

By Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 19, 2021

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeThis week we will know the fate of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who placed his knee on George Floyd’s neck, an act that led to his death. It was a crime that inflamed the sensibilities of many people around the world, especially those people who have fought for racial justice for most of their lives. Chauvin invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify for fear that he might incriminate himself. That may have been a smart move.

To many people what was an open-and-shut case may turn out to be another manifestation of the deep racism that lies at the heart of American society. The public are asked to believe, as David Fowler, the past medical examiner of Maryland testified, that Floyd did not die from the officer’s knee on his neck but succumbed because of a weak heart, his use of illicit drugs, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dr. Fowler’s testimony reminded me of a line in Richard Pryor’s comedy performance “Live on the Sunset Strip,” when his wife caught him having an affair with another woman. He sought to get out of this incriminating situation by asking his wife: “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?” Other comedians, such as Chico Marx, had used that line before but Pryor’s utterance seemed to stick.

One would have thought that such dissimulation and attempts at mind-manipulation resided only in the imaginations of comedians or even cheating husbands. Although scientists in the United States have been trying to prove the inferiority of Black people through misguided scientific theories for the last two hundred years, one never thought that such psychological manipulation would allow a white policeman to avoid taking responsibility for his callous disregard of Black life.

In June 2020, twelve reputable physicians explained how the “weaponization of medical language reinforced white supremacy at the torment of Black Americans.” They complained: “They took standard components of a preliminary autopsy report to cast doubt, to sow uncertainty; to gaslight Americans into thinking we didn’t see what we know we saw….By inaccurately portraying the medical findings from the autopsy of George Floyd, the legal system and media emboldened white supremacy, all under the cloak of authoritative scientific rhetoric” (“George Floyd’s Autopsy and the Structural Gaslighting of America,” Scientific American, June 6, 2020).

The physicians described gaslighting as “a method of psychological manipulation employed to make a victim question their own sanity, particularly in scenarios where they are mistreated. The term comes from a 1938 play and, later, a popular film, wherein a predatory husband abuses his wife in a plot to have her committed to a mental institution. He dims the gaslight in their home; then, when she comments on the darkness, knowingly rejects her observation and uses it as evidence that she has gone insane. It’s a tortuous tactic employed to destroy a person’s trust in their own perception of reality. It’s a devastating distraction from oppression.”

Just when Black Americans were holding their collective breath awaiting the outcome of the case of Floyd’s murder, Kim Potter, a white police offer, shot Daunte Wright, a Black man, during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, twelve miles from where Chauvin’s trial is taking place. She claimed that she mistook her Taser for her gun.

“Holy shit, I just shot him,” she said in disbelief. Potter had worked for the department for 26 years and had trained junior officers in the use of guns and Tasers.

When Darnella Frazier, a seventeen-year-old young woman took the video of Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, she could not have known that her video would shock the world. She said she was drawn to the scene by the sight of “a man terrified begging for his life.” She told the court: “It wasn’t right. He was suffering, he was in pain.”

Neither, for that matter, could Darnella have known that she was following in the steps of Ida B. Wells, one of the most renowned Black journalists in the United States. Beginning in 1892, Wells traveled the country, to investigate the lynching of Black people at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. She shared her remarkable life with us in her autobiography, Crusade for Justice (1976).

In 2020 Alfreda Duster wrote a new introduction to her mother’s book. She said that her mother fought every form of injustice and discrimination in the United States “with voice and pen….During the years of race riots, whenever reports of them appeared in the daily presses she went into action.” Wells was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously in 2020 for “her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African-Americans during the era of lynching.”

Today, an army of Black and white people are using their cell phones to capture white violence against Black and brown people. Even so, we are asked to disbelieve what we see with our naked eyes. These videos, they say, cannot be considered reliable sources of knowledge. We are told there must be something more in the mortar than the pestle.

Why, they ask, should we believe our lying eyes when we see state-sanctioned evidence that dismisses the violence in U. S. society?

Closing arguments on the Chauvin case could be made tomorrow and Wright will be buried on Thursday. Whatever decision the jury makes, we will never see Floyd or Wright again. Our grief is compounded by asking us to believe we didn’t see what we saw.

Such a request is a cruel continuation of the psychological manipulation that has been inflicted upon Black people for years. Chauvin, rather than Floyd, is on trial and our eyes do not deceive us.

8 thoughts on “The Gaslighting of America”

  1. While Selwyn Cudjoe never tires of dissecting and enumerating in minute detail the racism of White Americans, he has nothing to say about the Chinese, who refuse to take responsibility for the fact that they have just killed three million people and counting, and have wrecked the economies of over 175 countries around the world

    Where is the condemnation of those crimes, which are vastly greater than dispatching a petty thief and drug addict on the side of the road.

  2. “Chicago had 105 murders in July, more than double the 44 in July 2019, and 584 shooting victims is also up dramatically from the same period last year, with 308 reported in July 2019. July was the most violent month in 28 years, according to the Tribune.”
    The trial of this police was already accomplished on the streets and the video recordings seen around the world. He used excessive force and ensure the black brother was dead according to ambulance operators who acknowledged no sign of a pulse.

    Stepping away from all of this and contextualizing crime in America one can safely assume murder is not the only domain of white cop versus unarmed black civilian. But rather it is black on black crime. Chicago stands out as the gangland capital of the United States.

    It is not to minimize the killing of brother Floyd, everyone deserves the fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom. Recently Sikhs came under gunfire but there will be no marching and burning because there is no long history of violence within that community.

    In this confused world that we live in, let us hope the strong arm of justice will prevail as a warning to other cops. Homicide or accidental manslaughter? Soon the truth will emerge or will it???

    1. 🙂
      Yoruba…are you seeing this?…”what about black on black crime in chicago…?” is an infamous gaslighting argument for those that hate africans in america, and on a trinidadian forum, an indian trinidadian is using it…are u surprised? I’m not.
      Isn’t it nauseating to see Dr. Cudjoe go out of his way on a trinidadian forum, to do in depth analysis on anti-african racism in america, while pandering to the racist indian political establishment and ignoring indian anti-african racism in trinidad? Sickening, shameful and sad.

      Typical Indian caribbean racism
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6_YALsW5tg

      Rare indian caribbean honesty
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODctqv4h-68

      1. Yoruba…are you seeing this?…”what about black on black crime in chicago…?” is an infamous gaslighting argument for those that hate africans in america, and on a trinidadian forum, an indian trinidadian is using it…are u surprised? I’m not.

        Not at all. It is rare for me to read more than the opening sentence of what this person writes. He is not the most acute of analysts. You can smell him coming a mile. I tend now to ignore the smell and move on, quickly…

        Isn’t it nauseating to see Dr. Cudjoe go out of his way on a trinidadian forum, to do in depth analysis on anti-african racism in america, while pandering to the racist indian political establishment and ignoring indian anti-african racism in trinidad? Sickening, shameful and sad.

        Sad indeed.

        The Most High is clearly unleashing plagues, pestilences, and general judgment on Esau-Edom as prophesied (Gen 15:13-14) and as we speak. So for him to transform himself into a yard-fowl for the wrong side (Rev 18:4) is yes, a sad spectacle. So was Judas.

        Shalom.

        Genesis 15:13-14. “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.”

        Revelation 18:4. “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
        5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

  3. In hunting vampires you have to be careful you don’t become one—German proverb.
    Whilst the world is occupied with the Chauvin case, TnT have its own “Chauvin” in the person of “Leader of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), Inspector Mark Hernandez, is set to be charged with misbehaviour in public office in relation to an investigation into the treatment of the suspects in the abduction and murder of Andrea Bharatt.”—Guardian Newspaper. He has been charged since. The usually slow Gaspard was quick on the draw to charge Hernandez.

    Joel Balcon and Andrew Morris were prime suspects in the abduction of Bharrat, a clerk at the Arima Magistrate’s Court, who went missing on January 29th. The two interrogated and died in the hospital.

    Joel Balcon was a known serial rapist, murderer and sadist. In over a decade he operated as a clinical criminal perfecting his trade and being well protected by the courts. With over 70 charges and a string of women who barely survived the ordeal (some died and was disposed like a dead dog) Balcon who was accustom to torturing others refused to disclose any information on his latest victim Andrea Bharrat. One would wonder why the cases on Balcon was not reopened and places he took those women visited and exposed to the light it richly deserved. It must be noted his connections in the police service and the judiciary need to scrutinized, information about judges selling parcel of land and using the deed to grant criminals bail has been swept under the rug.

    For mine part Hernandez deserves a hero medal for getting rid of the two pest. Morris was a car thief charged with assault and was on his way to career criminality. He had information on Andrea but choose to remain silent.

    What should have been done is the CoP and PSB should have sit with Hernandez and discuss improving the interrogation process. Instead they choose to treat him as a criminal….sad. The irony of the charge and the cost of bail an astounding $300,000. Balcon on the other hand was given $5000 bail released to conduct his criminality… what is wrong with the justice system..

  4. I hope not, but Black Americans should brace themselves for the reality of a not guilty verdict or an appeal , if Chauvin is found guilty, prolonging this case even further.

    Verdicts by the media or by members of Congress, usurping the role of the jury serve no useful purpose except to provide ground for appeal by the defense, as stated by the judge.

  5. Jury is out Chauvin had the book thrown at him. 75 years in the penitentiary. All three counts he was labelled as guilty. Now to be fair the sentence is excessive. But with thousands of BLM people on the streets the likelihood of rioting they had no choice.
    America judicial system is almost a world by itself.

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