Stereotypes have been pretty much banned, but a select few are still permitted.
It's okay — indeed, almost obligatory — to stereotype police as redneck Buford T. Justices, as minority-harassing bigots in reflectorized sunglasses, one cheek all puffed out with a wad of Red Man chaw.
Meanwhile, corporate "human resources" departments are paying out millions to consultants to ferret out "institutional" or "structural" racism in the workforce and retrain, or weed out, those suspected of exemplifying it.
TV ads and ubiquitous signage wag a scolding finger at the law enforcement Boss Hoggs running our police departments.
The recalcitrant "unwoke" in our midst are urged to own up to their innate pigmentation failings or face social and economic ostracism or other punitive measures just short of orchiectomy.
Perhaps now the privileged side of the color line has a small taste of what it was like to be a black person back in the era of Jim Crow.
Big city mayors have literally painted the streets with the hectoring slogan "Blacks Lives Matter." If you dare to say "All Lives Matter," bands of shrieking protesters may show up on your front doorstep.
They may even follow you into the restaurant and stand at table side berating you as you try to concentrate on the menu.
If you live in a neighborhood deemed to be of suspected affluence, you may be paid after-dark visits by noisy mobs of "demonstrators" taunting you through bullhorns for your undeserved good fortune.
Realizing the American dream may now mark you as the enemy of "social justice."
The NBA's and NFL's gold-bedecked, Bentley-driving, multi-millionaire athletes are pitching in to help spread the propaganda message that racism is here, there and everywhere, that it's lurking under every bed and behind every bush, just as Joe McCarthy said Communism was back in the early 1950s.
This is not to suggest there is no racism, it should go without saying.
There of course is. But there also were active Communists and Communist sympathizers in America back in the day when Joe McCarthy was making his exaggerated or baseless claims that gave us the derogatory term "McCarthyism."
In such a racially paranoid atmosphere as prevails today, you'd think it's a sure bet that the Minneapolis policeman charged with second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd is going to be convicted.
Well, resist taking that bet.
The possible unhappy outcome of the trial in that case needs to be addressed now, for this urgent reason: If a jury renders anything less than the expected verdict of guilty as all get-out, American cities are very likely to find themselves buffeted by a Category 5 storm of violence, destruction and looting — round two of the turmoil the Floyd case precipitated in the first place.
Anything less than a verdict of hang em' high is likely to unleash a storm that will make the recent disturbances in Portland, Seattle, Kenosha and elsewhere seem like the peaceful protests the media have grossly mischaracterized them to be.
A standard prop in "demonstrations" inspired by Floyd's death has been the placard declaring: "Justice or Violence. You Decide." Or the chant, "No justice, no peace!"
How will those cities with defunded police forces, or with police forces depleted by early retirements, cope with the hellish wave of likely devastation if the verdict fails to meet the street approval of the BLM and Antifa Black Shirt forces?
To point this out is not to argue, mind you, that George Floyd's alleged killer, policeman Derek Chauvin, should get off. It's only to say that under the law and the facts as now known, the chances of his getting off are probably a lot better than you realized.
The media have fed the nation a daily diet of suggestions to the contrary. As a result, even many Republican pols have joined the torch-and-pitchfork constituencies declaring Chauvin and three fellow officers guilty in advance of a trial. (The three have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.)
According to popular sentiment, all that remains to be settled is constructing the scaffold and fetching a length of rope.
In the middle of a budget speech, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the Wall Street gadzillionaire, digressed to declare the Minneapolis police officers guilty of "senseless murder."
Hey, we don't need no stinkin' trial!
"'I'll be judge, I'll be jury,' declared cunning old Fury" (in Alice's' Adventures in Wonderland.) "'I'll try the whole cause and condemn you to death.'"
But the bottled-up truth is that the case against Chauvin and three fellow Minneapolis officers is far from the prosecutorial cakewalk it has been widely portrayed to be.
The guy in charge of the investigation, Minnesota Attorney Gen. Keith Ellison, has acknowledged as much himself. And nobody ha ever suggested that Ellison is in any way, shape or form involved in the machinations of the vast right-wing conspiracy.
Au contraire, mon frere. Ellison gets a checkmark in every box in the survey of wokefulness qualifications. He's a Democrat. Check. He's black. Check. He was the first Muslim elected to Congress. Check.
He was a leader of the left-leaning Congressional Progressive Caucus. Check.
He was second-in-command of the Democratic National Committee. Check.
It's not likely, in other words, that he's secretly angling for the accused policemen to walk. But he has acknowledged the possibility they might.
And for sound legal reasons.
"Now hold on here," you may say at this point. "Doesn't a damning video clearly show Officer Chauvin kneeling on the Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes, until the handcuffed victim perished?
"What's there to argue about regarding the officer's obvious, blatant, 100 percent, unmitigated guilt?"
Plenty, actually. As any lawyer will tell you, in any legal matter the devil is always in the details. And the details — at least to the extent the details are known up to now — are troublesome regarding the prospects of a second-degree murder conviction.
For starters, Floyd was responsive and conscious for all but the last three minutes of the eight minutes, 46 seconds he was pinned down by the kneeling officer.
And it turns out that "Big Floyd," as he was known — he was six feet, seven inches — was pinned down on the street by the kneeling officer because he had successfully resisted being wrestled into a squad car.
It's true as widely noted that Floyd had complained while pinned down that he couldn't breathe. But he also had complained earlier, while officers were trying to put him in the squad car, that he couldn't breathe.
He had said he was feeling panicky, claustrophobic.
In response, the arresting officers at that point urged him to calm down, to stop shouting if he was short of breath, to stop thrashing around and resisting arrest.
The video and the audio transcript of the arrest reveal no police threats, no abusive language, no racial epithets. The arresting officers dealt with him throughout the incident in non-threatening tones and language.
Floyd clearly was in a state of shouting, unhinged agitation. His frenzied conduct suggested that of a very large man freaked out on drugs. And so does a Minnesota county coroner's autopsy report.
It states that Floyd had recently taken methamphetamines and had traces of fentanyl and cannabis in his system.
Other devilish details further complicate the prosecution's murder case.
Two autopsies come to vague and conflicting conclusions regarding cause of death. These could help the defense establish reasonable doubt.
The county autopsy specifically discounts "traumatic asphyxiation or strangulation" — i.e., the kneeling — as the cause of Floyd's death.
The autopsy states, instead, that the cause of death was "cardiopulminary arrest due to complicating law enforcement subdual" — wording that seems to leave the cause-of-death issue and contributing factors open to debate.
In addition to citing drug use as a serious, contributing factor in Floyd's death, the county autopsy cites Floyd's "arteriosclerotic and hypertensive" cardiovascular conditions. (Plus, the autopsy says, Floyd was found positive for COVID-19.)
A privately commissioned autopsy by a team including renowned forensic pathologist Michael Baden concludes, in contrast, that the kneeling officer did indeed cause Floyd's death by asphyxiation.
But the terms of the private autopsy also seem to leave grounds for debate regarding that finding and the role of other contributing factors.
In any event, it looks like a jury will be left to grapple with two autopsy conclusions that are at odds with each other — conclusions pointing to a possible reasonable-doubt standoff.
Then there's the devil-in-the-details issue of Floyd's extensive police record.
Maybe the prosecution will be able to construct legal arguments that bar this information from reaching the jury. But likely not.
The prosecution will have to attempt to show a degree of homicidal intent in the police officers' actions. And the prosecution's attempt to to do that likely will open the way for the defense to raise the issue of Floyd's criminal record.
That record would enable the defense to argue that the officers' were guided by legitimate concern over Floyd's background as an offender, not by their supposed, unrestrained, homicidal acts.
Second-degree murder under Minnesota law requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of intent to "effect death . . . without premeditation."
Unpremeditated intent may involve "intense emotion" or "impulse."
It may be indicated by "implicit malice" or "reckless" or "depraved" indifference to the bodily harm one's acts are likely to inflict.
The video and audio transcript of the arrest seem to offer little support in meeting any of those criteria.
But, of course, we shall see come the trial what the prosecution can make of such evidence as it has at hand and what other evidence it may be able to scare up between now and then.
Floyd's police record, in any event, surely deters the prosecution from presenting him to the jury as the civil rights martyr that window-smashing street mobs in cities across the country have portrayed him to be, with media complicity.
That record shows convictions and repeated suspended sentences for drug violations (mostly cocaine possession with intent to distribute) and theft — nine sentences in all over a 10-year period.
In 2007, he pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
That incident involved a home invasion, one of the most terrifying, violent crimes of all.
Despite his many previous run-ins with the law, Floyd served under five years for the crime — hardly draconian punishment given the nature of the offense.
Such law enforcement stereotypes as are still permitted these days — Deep South chain-gang bosses with cocked shotguns and baying bloodhounds and all the rest — are, alas, not likely to be available for the prosecution to use in a court of law against the accused policemen in the progressive city of Minneapolis.
The prosecution has no law enforcement heavies from central casting standing by to put jurors in the mood to make the four policemen pay for the bygone era of slavery and Jim Crow.
None of the defendant officers comes across as the stereotypical image of, say, "Clancy Wiggum," the fat, lazy, donut-snarfing, incompetent white cop who's held up to routine ridicule on The Simpsons cartoon show.
Nor do any of the arresting officers in the Floyd case appear to be good-ol'-boy rebel refugees from The Dukes of Hazzard movie set.
Far from being confused with the likes of Cledus and Little Enos, two of the accused officers in the Floyd case are themselves minorities.
One is an African-American. The other is an Asian-American of Laotian Hmong descent.
The jury surely will take note of this as the prosecution attempts to portray the arresting officers as a gang of bigoted brutes indifferent to the well-being of another human due solely to his skin color.
Then what about the store owner who set the stage for this whole sorry episode? What about the guy who summoned the police to the scene over a fake $20 bill that Floyd allegedly tried to slip past him?
Any chance this guy can be presented to the jury as one of those stereotype peckerwoods, one of those mayo monkeys who's always eager to sic the police on an African American?
Any such effort, it seems, is likely to be complicated by the man's identity, Mahmoud Abumayyaleh.
The long and short of it is this: If you live in a city, you may want to board up your businesses and homes and arrange to be elsewhere on the day the Floyd jury returns to the courtroom with its verdict.
Just in case.