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Abolitionism Part 2: The Wave of George Floyd’s Death

“I know that it's hard to believe that the people you look to for safety and security are the same people who are causing us so much harm. But I'm not lying and I'm not delusional. I am scared and I am hurting and we are dying. And I really, really need you to believe me,” American author and activist Ijeoma Oluo wrote in her book So You Want to Talk About Race.

Activists across the world have come together to advocate for the arrest and charge of Derek Chauvin, the former white police officer who was caught on video using his knee to pin down George Floyd, a black man suspected of forgery, who later died. Following days of protests, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

“The death of George Floyd inflamed existing tensions in a community where police have long been accused of racism,” the Washington Post wrote. Cries of outrage from communities across the world have begun to shed light on police brutality and its long history in the United States.

“Americans of all races, ethnicities, ages, classes, and genders have been subjected to police brutality. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, for example, poor and working-class whites expressed frustration over discriminatory policing in northern cities…immigrants from… Europe also complained of police brutality against their communities. In the 1920s many urban police departments... used extralegal tactics against members of Italian-immigrant communities in efforts to crack down on organized crime. In 1943 officers of the Los Angeles Police Department were complicit in attacks on Mexican Americans by U.S. servicemen during the so-called Zoot Suit Riots, reflecting the department’s history of hostility toward Hispanics (Latinos). Regular harassment of homosexuals and transgender persons by police in New York City culminated in 1969 in the Stonewall riots, which were triggered by a police raid on a gay bar… And in the aftermath of the 2001 September 11 attacks, Muslim Americans began to voice complaints about police brutality, including harassment and racial profiling. Many local law-enforcement agencies launched covert operations of questionable legality designed to surveil and infiltrate mosques and other Muslim American organizations in an effort to uncover presumed terrorists, a practice that went unchecked for at least a decade,” wrote Leonard Moore for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Minorities across the states experience police brutality, but for decades, the great majority of victims have been African Americans. In the U.S. there are six times as many white people than there are black and yet, are three times more likely to be killed by police officers.

Unfortunately, 99% of police killings between the years 2013-2019 resulted in zero charges brought against the officers involved, meaning there is no accountability.

The target of black Americans has sparked outrage, with many proposing the end of a policing force as its inherent existence has always been deemed racist by minorities. In the 1800s, police were hired to ensure that the institution of slavery remained intact and fully-functioning. Police would often beat, murder, and ridicule blacks in public as part of scare tactics to suppress their voices. This practice, though revolutionized to work with modern society, remains intact and prominent in minority communities.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was out shopping for food when a grocery clerk called the cops, stating that a forgery was taking place. When police arrived, Floyd was already in his car, along with two other passengers. Floyd was pronounced dead at 9:25 after being pinned to the floor, with a knee to his windpipe despite not resisting arrest and begging Chauvin to get off of him.

The nation's response to Floyd’s death has been immediate and overwhelming with protesters walking the streets, chanting, holding up posters with Floyd’s name, the Black Lives Matter logo and dozens of other texts. Floyd now joins the list of hundreds of black lives lost due to the systematic racism that plagues the nation. Names recently added include Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT was shot 8 times as police entered her house in the middle of the night, and Ahmad Arbery, a 25-year-old shot dead while going for a run by two white men claiming they were conducting a citizen’s arrest for a local robbery.

As black citizens and allies mourn the loss of Floyd, Taylor, and Arbery, politicians offer their condolences, tweet about the injustice, but fail to bring forth any action. In fact, leaders such as President Trump appear to take the side of injustice, tweeting out “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” essentially implying that violence should be taken upon the protestors that were shot with rubber bullets and tear-gassed.

The police force has been called out repeatedly for their anti-black sentiments that are inherently ingrained in their existence as millions of people fill their stories with links, posts, and resources to educate others in the racial system citizens are complicit in upholding. However, though I think it’s great people are posting their support about the issue, when your Instagram story disappears in 24 hours, what real change have you made? Did you sign petitions? Email and call Minnesota officials? Did you donate or listen to black voices? It’s not enough to just post on your story.

We all have to do better to support of black citizens. We have to listen to their stories, unlearn the anti-black sentiments we were taught at a young age, we have to hold ourselves accountable and check our privilege. Activists like Rachel Cargle have curated lists of resources on how to be active allies, I implore you to read her website.

In order to enact change, we have to start by recognizing that there is a problem and we have to listen to the voices of those who face oppression. Don’t be an ally because it makes you feel good about yourself, be an ally because it’s your job.

By: Daisy Calderon

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