George Floyd’s Death and Systemic Racism in the US
The death of George Floyd, an African-American man from Minnesota, occurred on May 25, 2020, when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd's neck for about 8 minutes. Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on the road. Video recording by bystanders, showing Floyd repeatedly saying "I can't breathe", were widely circulated on social media platforms and broadcast by the media.
The arrest was conducted after Floyd allegedly attempted to use a $20 bill in a deli, which an employee identified as counterfeit. Police alleged that Floyd "physically resisted" after being ordered to exit his vehicle. However, surveillance footage from a nearby restaurant doesn't support the claim.
The four police officers involved were fired. And the one who knelt was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Floyd’s death prompted demonstrations and protests across the US. Some of the protests have been peaceful, while others have been destructive. It also has caused a dramatic shift in the national political debate in America and thrust race to the center of the stage.
“People are frustrated and rightfully so. There’s a lot of righteous anger out there and a lot of it is from being ignored, not taken seriously and the allowing of these types of things to continue,” said Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes.
“Look, the police have been executing black men in this country for a long time. We’re just now understanding it in the last five to 10 years because everybody’s got a camera in their pocket,” argued the Democratic activist Abdul El-Sayed. “I think people are sick of it but then it’s not just that, it’s the fact that you look at Covid-19, which has been the story for the past four months, rightly so, 100,000 lives lost. Those lives are disproportionately black folks’ lives.”
“I think right now what you’re seeing is black voters get to see how Donald Trump reacts to things like this. It’s a reminder of his history, his history of calling on law enforcement to be more aggressive, to be more brutal in their enforcement of the law,” said the Democratic strategist Brandon Davis.
According to some experts, Floyd’s death “falls within a larger pattern” of clashes between police officers and residents in black communities. “I wish I could tell you there were differences between the 1960s and today, when it comes to police incidents, but it’s the same,” Said Keith A. Mayes, a professor of African American & African Studies at the University of Minnesota.
“George Floyd’s death comes on the same day that a white woman in New York threatened an African American birdwatcher by calling the police and invoking his race. The following day, Black people protesting the brutal murder of Mr. Floyd were assaulted with police tear gas and rubber bullets. This police violence stands in sharp contrast to the images of police standing calmly while mostly white protestors—some of whom were carrying weapons—demonstrated for the reopening of businesses.” Said Danyelle Solomon, vice president of Race and Ethnicity Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Racism is our underlying disease. It has permeated not only our economic, social, and civic systems but also our everyday behaviors.”
In 2014, Eric Graner, an unarmed black man also repeated “I can’t breathe” and died in New York police custody after an officer held him in a chokehold. Mr. Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2016, an African-American man, Philando Castile, was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop in a suburb of St. Paul, Minn. The officer was later acquitted of second-degree manslaughter and of endangering safety by discharging a firearm in the shooting.
More than 150 years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, the legacy of slavery continues to have an impact on the position of black people in American society even today. The election of Donald Trump in 2016 has been viewed by some commentators as a racist backlash against the election of Barack Obama. Also his presidential campaign was fueled by nativist sentiment directed at nonwhite immigrants, and he proposed barring Muslims from entering the country. Although Donald Trump consider himself “the least racist person that you've ever encountered”, you can easily find some of his racist views here.
According to a new Pew Research Center survey, more than four-in-ten say the country hasn’t made enough progress toward racial equality. Opinions about the current state of race relations – and President Donald Trump’s handling of the issue – are also negative.
- Some 56% think the president has made race relations worse. Roughly two-thirds (65%) say it’s become more common for people to express racist views since Trump became president.
- Majorities of both black and white adults say blacks are treated less fairly than whites by the criminal justice system (87% of blacks vs. 61% of whites) and in dealing with police (84% vs. 63%, respectively).
- About three-quarters of blacks and Asians (76% of each) say they have experienced discrimination or have been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity at least from time to time.
- According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), in 2019 about 60% of police stops and street interrogations were black people while just 9% were white.
- Black Americans and white Americans use drugs at similar rates, but Black Americans are 6 times more likely to be arrested for it.
- Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court.
It seems that the United States must adopt concrete measures to reduce both the existence and the effects of racial discrimination in its whole society and justice system.