Tuesday, September 28, 2021
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White privilege: a tale of two murders

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MOST readers are probably aware of a man here in the States who was arrested and restrained face down on the ground with an officer’s knee on his back for several minutes, and who died during the arrest. Most readers will probably think the man I am referring to is George Floyd, but they would be wrong; the man I am writing about was named Tony Timpa, who died in the hands of police four years before Floyd. 

On August 10, 2016, Tony Timpa called the police from a Dallas parking lot and told the dispatcher he suffered from depression and schizophrenia, and that he was off his medication. Five officers from the ‘Crisis Intervention Training’ team arrived to find Timpa handcuffed by a security guard. The officers proceeded to restrain him further à la Derek Chauvin and George Floyd, with an officer’s knee on his back and hands pressing Timpa’s shoulders into the ground. All the while Timpa cried, ‘please let me go!’ and ‘you’re going to kill me!’ When he became unconscious the officers responded not with concern, but with jokes about waking him for school and what to make him for breakfast. Timpa died during the arrest (within 20 minutes of the officers’ arrival on the scene).  

Timpa’s demise is very similar to Floyd’s, yet his tale is largely unknown. In this day and age of ‘All Cops are Racist So We Must Defund the Police’, one would think that Timpa’s name would be all over the mainstream media and Woke social media to help advance their cause. But it isn’t, and that’s because there is one slight inconvenience that shatters their narrative: Tony Timpa was white. 

There is a lot of talk these days about ‘white privilege’, especially here in the States. White privilege is the idea that simply because a person is white they have power and benefits and advantages over people of other colours. However, here are a few facts from both Timpa’s and Floyd’s cases that, when compared, flip this narrative on its head: 

– Derek Chauvin, the officer who restrained Floyd with his knee, is serving a prison sentence of 22 years for murder (the three other officers present at the scene are still awaiting trial); the officers at the scene of Timpa’s death had their charges dismissed. 

-The body camera footage from Floyd’s arrest was released immediately; the footage from Timpa’s was released after three years of requests from journalists and investigators. 

-In a civil suit, Floyd’s family received a $27million settlement from the city of Minneapolis; when Timpa’s family demanded justice, a judge decided that the officers were immune from a civil suit.

-Floyd has murals painted in his honour and memory all over the world; Tony Timpa’s story is largely unknown. 

If one were to read these details of both cases without knowing the races of each victim, who would they conclude was the white man benefiting from an unearned privilege? 

The next time you hear someone complaining about white privilege, ask them if they know the name George Floyd, then ask them if they have heard of Tony Timpa. Learning of these two stories should assuage their concerns about racial discrepancies, and if it doesn’t, at least you’ll know you’re not speaking with a rational thinker.

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Thomas Lane
Thomas Lane is a writer who lives and works in New York City.

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