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Cher Says Maybe She Could Have Helped George Floyd — Let’s Not Forget Who’s Really To Blame

Photo: Kevin Winter/BBMA2020/Getty Images
Cher and her tweets about George Floyd

Cher has found herself at the center of a social media frenzy after tweeting a comment that appear to suggest she thinks she could have prevented George Floyd's death.

The music icon shared her thought "maybe [she] could've helped" if she was present on that fateful day in May 2020 when Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.

Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter after forcibly holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.

In a since-deleted tweet, Cher told her 3.9 million Twitter followers, "Was talking with Mom & She Said 'I Watched Trial Of Policeman Who Killed George Floyd, & Cried'. I Said 'Mom, I Know This Is Gonna Sound CRAZY, But.. I Kept Thinking .....Maybe If I'd Been There,...I Could've Helped."

At the heart of Cher’s comments is a sentiment that resonates with many of us: Someone should have done something to save George Floyd.

However, her belief that she could have been that person is misguided.

The only person who had the power to save Floyd is Chauvin. And in failing to do so, he is the only person who should be held accountable.

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Cher at first doubled down on her comments in a follow-up tweet writing, “I CAN, I HAVE, & I WILL...HELP."

But after some reflection, she apologized, acknowledging that her good intentions had been communicated in an inappropriate fashion.

Her comments raise interesting points that many well-meaning non-Black people can relate to.

Sometimes the desire to help becomes futile when we fail to understand what exactly we are trying to change.

It’s natural to want to help. In fact, more people should be doing it. But believing that you as one single white person can save Black men from police brutality is part of the problem.

This is a much larger systemic issue that needs to be understood thoroughly in order to be addressed.

There are people whose job it was to help George Floyd — and they didn't.

Cher’s comments shift the conversation around Floyd’s death away from the true perpetrators.

Whatever anyone else could, would, or should have done is irrelevant when the people who had Floyd in their custody failed him in such an extreme way.

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When we attempt to rewrite the story with new characters involved, we distract from the reality that the only person who should and could have saved him was the person who kept his knee on his neck.

The singer has been criticized for demonstrating a white savior complex by believing she had the power to save Floyd. In doing so, she inadvertently cast blame on the bystanders who were present by implying they could have done more.

Repeatedly, these bystanders have expressed feelings of guilt on the stand at Chauvin’s trial while the officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck hides behind his “not guilty” plea.

Cher unintentionally added to this guilt with her comments. She is right, more could have been done. However, she is wrong about who could have done it.

What can a bystander do when the people whose job it is to serve and protect are doing neither of those things?

Genevieve Hansen, a trained EMT who witnessed Floyd’s death, even went as far as to call 911 to report Chauvin to no avail.

A crime of this nature defies everything we are taught about who upholds peace in the world and exposes the need for an entire reorganization of our policing system.

Cher's words reflect a misunderstanding of the ways in which Black men experience violence.

Cher was not clear on what she would have done or how she would have prevented Floyd’s death, but her comments reflect a lack of awareness about how these kinds of situations escalate for people of color, particularly Black men.

As a white woman, even one with the best intentions, it is impossible for Cher to know how this situation would have gone if she had been present.

Any kind of physical intervention could have been fatal — not only for Floyd but others as well.

Bodycam footage of Floyd’s arrest shows that within moments of approaching Floyd, police drew their guns, making it clear that the police aggression so familiar to Black men was immediately present in this situation.

Black people make up 25% of deaths in all police shootings despite only making up 12% of the general population, meaning that any further escalation of Floyd’s arrest could have been detrimental for the Black people present.

In the presence of police, any Black man could be the next Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, or now, George Floyd — but the stakes are not as high for a white woman.

Cher, or any white person, cannot possibly know how it feels to be a Black person approached by police in circumstances where one wrong move from you or anyone around you could get you killed.

Had Cher somehow tried to physically stop Chauvin, the situation could have been even more disastrous.

We have seen throughout the trial a consistent attempt to cast blame on bystanders for antagonizing Chauvin.

These bystanders attempted to speak to Chauvin, to warn him about Floyd’s deteriorating consciousness and to beg him to take his knee of Floyd’s neck.

But in their dealings with Black men, police officers practice a unique aggression that many white people are ignorant to.

Of course, it defies logic to think that a police officer wouldn’t want to save a dying man so it’s understandable for people like Cher to think they could change that outcome.

But that is exactly the problem: Crimes of this nature must be addressed at an ideological level and should not be a matter of who could have done what.

The pleas of these bystanders were ignored as Chauvin continued to show a lack of respect for Floyd’s life. Cher’s involvement would not have changed Chauvin’s mindset.

Even the trained EMT who watched Floyd’s death was ignored when she begged to know his pulse.

It is hard to imagine the outcome would have been any different if Cher had been the one talking.

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her on Twitter for more.