Two lengthy pull-quotes from a righteously indignant essay by twelve doctors
In America, widespread anti-Black violence is often paired with structural gaslighting. Racism, after all, thrives when blame for its outcomes are misattributed. When Black families are refused loans in criminally discriminatory housing schemes, their credit is blamed. When youth of color are disproportionately stopped and frisked, they are told the process is random, and for their safety.
And when Black people are killed by police, their character and even their anatomy is turned into justification for their killer’s exoneration. One analysis of the national database of state-level death certificate data found that fewer than half of law enforcement–related deaths were reported. In addition to this undercounting, police actions were further minimized by the use of diagnostic codes that incorrectly labeled the cause of death as “accidental” or “undetermined” rather than police-related. For centuries, our systems have relied on this psychological torture—a host of mental gymnastics—to deny the truth of what Black people have always known. The cause of death is racism.
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. They took standard components of a preliminary autopsy report to cast doubt, to sow uncertainty; to gaslight America into thinking we didn’t see what we know we saw. In doing so, they perpetuated stereotypes about disease, risky behavior and intoxication in Black bodies to discredit a victim of murder. This state of affairs is not an outlier—it is part of a patterned and tactical distortion of facts wherein autopsy reports are manipulated to bury police violence and uphold white supremacy. As Ida B. Wells said, “Those who commit the murders write the reports.” A similar conflict of interest between police departments and medical examiners offices continues today.
George Floyd’s Autopsy and the Structural Gaslighting of America | Scientific American