Domination and the Murder of George Floyd

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

In our documentary movie “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” directed by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota Nation), we quote language from the papal document Dum diversas, issued by the Catholic Church in 1452. The dehumanizing language expressed in that papal document provides a means of understanding the heartless killing of an African-American named George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota police.

How could language from a document that is nearly six hundred years old provide any insight into the present-day actions of policemen working for a major American city? The answer is quite simple. The dominating and dehumanizing language expressed by Pope Nicolas V to King Alfonso of Portugal told Alfonso that he was authorized to use deadly force toward the inhabitants of the Western coast of Africa.

Pope Nicholas told the king that when his representatives arrived to their destination, they were to “invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue,” “all Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ,” “to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and take away all their possessions and property.” That language marks the beginning of the African slave trade and centuries of domination and dehumanization toward Black people such as George Floyd.

The White man, disguised as a policeman operating under color of law (the appearance of lawfulness), kneeling on the blood vessels and neck of a Black man who was begging for his life and saying he was about to die, was behaving in the exact manner of the Portuguese slavers who officially listed their captured Black victims as “44 pieces.” Not flesh and blood humans, but “pieces.” Domination and dehumanization.

What is called “American civilization” was built on the same patterns of domination and dehumanization that killed George Floyd. Who built the U.S. capital building? Black Slaves. Black slaves were a significant part of the workforce that built the White House. Who owned those slaves? The upper crust of White society, who created the laws and policies that kept those Black people enslaved. Slavery in America was in keeping with language authorizing slavery in the Vatican document Dum diversas and other such documents issued in the 1450s.

The attitudes, values, and beliefs of a society operate in the deepest recesses of the mental world and subconscious mind of the people of that society. When the Christian European colonizers first set foot on the continent, they ceremonially and militarily claimed the land and waters in the name of their king and their church, again in keeping with the 15th century language of domination.

The colonizers claimed a right of domination against the original Native nations and peoples of this continent. That claimed “right” ended up being termed “sovereignty,” which political philosopher Jonathon Havercroft has defined as “an unjust form of political domination that limits human freedom.” The right of domination claimed by the Christian European colonizers established the deep patters of domination and dehumanization that resulted in the murder of George Floyd all these centuries later.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that America’s racism “is the notion that one group has all of the knowledge, all of the insights, all of the purity, all of the work, all of the dignity. And another group is worthless, on a lower level of humanity, inferior.” Racism, he continued, is “the notion that the very being of a people is inferior.”

I would add that while it is true that racism is one of the most evident forms of domination and dehumanization, the claim of a right of domination by one group against another is not based on notions of race alone. That claim has been buttressed by religion, e.g., “we have the right to hold those people under our domination because they do not follow our religion.”

The claim of rightful domination amounts to a statement that “our group is ‘sovereign’ and their group is not,” so, therefore, “we have the right to hold them under our domination, and the right to end their lives if we so decide.” This is the rationale that underlies the concept of the political state, which, according to my research, is organized as a state of domination.

The habitual thought processes that resulted in the death of George Floyd occur at the level of the cognitive unconscious or collective subconscious mind of American society. This deep place is the most difficult to reach, address, and change. But until we do, the conceptual foundations of the system of domination called “America” will continue to result in the killing of people of color.

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is the co-founder and director of the Indigenous Law Institute, author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, and co-producer of the documentary “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” directed by Sheldon Wolfchild. Newcomb can be contacted at originalfreenations.com or at stv4newcomb@yahoo.com.


More articles by:
Weekend Edition
August 07, 2020
Friday - Sunday
John Davis
The COVID Interregnum
Louis Yako
20 Postcard Notes From Iraq: With Love in the Age of COVID-19
Patrick Cockburn
War and Pandemic Journalism: the Truth Can Disappear Fast
Eve Ottenberg
Fixing the COVID Numbers
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Every Which Way to Lose
Paul Street
Trump is Not Conceding: This is Happening Here
Robert Hunziker
The World on Fire
Rob Urie
Neoliberal Centrists and the American Left
John Laforge
USAF Vet Could Face ‘20 Days for 20 Bombs’ for Protest Against US H-Bombs Stationed in Germany
Andrew Levine
Clyburn’s Complaint
Kavaljit Singh
Revisiting the Idea of Pigou Wealth Tax in the Time of Covid-19
Paul Ryder
Here Come the 1968 Mistakes Again
T.J. Coles
Fighting Over Kashmir Could Blow Up the Planet
David Macaray
Haven’t We All Known Guys Who Were Exactly like Donald Trump?
Conn Hallinan
What’s Driving the Simmering Conflict Between India and China
Joseph Natoli
American Failures: August, 2020
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid or One State: Has Jordan Broken a Political Taboo?
Bruce Hobson
The US Left Needs Humility to Understand Mexican Politics
David Rosen
Easy Targets: Trump’s Attacks on Transgendered People
Ben Debney
The Neoliberal Virus
Evelyn Leopold
Is Netanyahu Serious About Annexing Jordan Valley?
Nicky Reid
When the Chickens Came Home to Roost In Portlandistan
Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj
The Power of the White Man and His Symbols is Being De-Mystified
Kathy Kelly
Reversal: Boeing’s Flow of Blood
Brian Kelly
Ireland and Slavery: Framing Irish Complicity in the Slave Trade
Ariela Ruiz Caro
South American Nations Adopt Different COVID-19 Stategies, With Different Results
Ron Jacobs
Exorcism at Boston’s Old West Church, All Hallows Eve 1971
J.P. Linstroth
Bolsonaro’s Continuous Follies
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Right-Wing Populism and the End of Democracy
Dean Baker
Trump’s Real Record on Unemployment in Two Graphs
Michael Welton
Listening, Conflict and Citizenship
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump Is The Only One Who Should Be Going To School This Fall
John Feffer
America’s Multiple Infections
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Thinking Outside the Social Media Echo Chamber
Andrea Mazzarino
The Military is Sick
John Kendall Hawkins
How the Middle Half Lives
Graham Peebles
The Plight of Refugees and Migrant Workers under Covid
Robert P. Alvarez
The Next Coronavirus Bill Must Protect the 2020 Election
Greg Macdougall
Ottawa Bluesfest at Zib: Development at Sacred Site Poses Questions of Responsibility
CounterPunch News Service
Tensions Escalate as Logging Work Commences Near Active Treesits in a Redwood Rainforest
Louis Proyect
The Low Magic of Charles Bukowski
Gloria Oladipo
Rural America Deserves a Real COVID-19 Response
Binoy Kampmark
Crossing the Creepy Line: Google, Deception and the ACCC
Marc Norton
Giants and Warriors Give Their Workers the Boot
Chuck Collins – Helen Flannery
Time for an Emergency Charity Stimulus