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This is Why

Mark Hersch


Friend of JOTPY photographer Mark Hersch noticed a strange parallel. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was staring at some unspecified point in the middle distance as he pinned George Floyd to the ground for an astounding seven minutes. Floyd died as a result, a tragedy that instigated mass protests.

Something clicked. Hersch remembered a photograph of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL star who nearly lost his career for "taking a knee" while the Star Spangled Banner played, a statement about police violence against African-Americans.

He placed the two images side by side with a simple headline. To Hersch's shock, his meme went viral. Everyone from Snoop Dogg to LeBron James retweeted it.

Too often, memes are destructive to our political discourse, cruel jibes that focus on a person's weakness, or fabrications that emanate from a dark place in the collective unconscious.

Kudos to Hersch for turning the meme to good account. The duality he expressed in this memorable image is very much of the moment as the country endures a period in its history marked by cognitive dissonance.

Coronavirus numbers increase in a dozen states while our president assures us it's safe to go out. Casinos re-open while many of us still can't get our hair cut.


All over America, people threaten each other for wearing masks, or not wearing them.

Like the rest of the country, Minneapolis is caught in the crosswinds of history. The police department has a history of violence toward African-Americans, who account for about 20 percent of the population but 60 percent of police shootings over the past decade. Black residents are more likely to be pulled over, arrested, and have force used against them than white residents, according to the police department's data.

At the same time, Mayor Jacob Frey appointed the city's first black police chief. Chief Medaria Arradondo himself had once participated in a lawsuit over the department's history of tolerating racist remarks and behavior.

Arradondo quickly fired the four officers at the scene. Now Frey is calling for charges to be filed against Floyd, who had a history of bad behavior on the force.

In Mark Hersh's meme you can almost feel the winds whipping around their heads.

This Is Why.

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