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Everyone deserves to feel safe and protected and to know that the law is on their side. So why are there innocent black people being killed by the very people who are supposed to protect them? George Floyd is a man who the system failed to protect. Needless to remind that this is the system that was created to protect all from harm.
In a video that dominated millions of screens within a few hours, we can see that despite people recording, begging, and pleading for the officer to stop, he refused to. The man tells the officer repeatedly he can’t breathe. They do not listen even as he begs for his mother. He dies with a police officer’s knee on his neck. This happened on May 28, 2020. His death, along with many other Black people who were victims of police brutality such as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, may well lead to a civil war.
Even though Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, they are three times more likely to be killed by the police than white Americans. Police brutality and systematic racism have always been prevalent in the United States. In 1991, Rodney King was tapped being violently beaten by LAPD officers, all of who were found not guilty.
The reactions to the protests currently happening reflect the time of the civil rights movement. Similar to the civil rights movement, many people who are peacefully protesting are having tear gas thrown at them, are beaten by police, and are forced to go back to their homes. They were labeled as thugs, just as President Trump labeled the current protesters as thugs.
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With social media, we are able to see videos showing how innocent Black people are being killed making it so that there is evidence of a crime being committed. We’re able to see that despite the evidence, the officers who committed most of these crimes have not been found guilty.
The uncertainty and familiarity of these situations ignite rage in people, leading to protests and calls for actions. It’s the hope that the rage will lead to change, hope is the fire that keeps the protestors going.
Black people are done not having their voices heard.
Doesn’t the death of George Floyd feel familiar? It feels as though you hear about the death of a Black person every other day on the news. But this thing is, we are hearing about a small percentage of deaths that happen. Many are never heard of; their deaths only mourned by their loved one or no one at all. It’s an uncomfortable reality, but true reality.
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With the case of George Floyd, all four officers have been fired and arrested. Derek Chauvin, the officer who is shown in the video with his knee on Floyd’s neck has been charged with second-degree murder. Now the question has become, will he serve prison time for George Floyd’s death? Despite him being arrested, people are still struggling to believe he will.
Before the death of George Floyd, Chauvin had 18 complaints filed against him. Records show that two of the cases were “closed with discipline” and a letter of reprimand was issued. How many complaints are an officer to have against him before being given more than a letter of reprimand? Why are police officers allowed to have complaints against them and yet be in charge of making sure other citizens abide by the law?
On May 30th, President Morales sent out a statement stating that we should provide a helping hand to our African-American population who have suffered trauma by not looking away. The problem with statements such as these is they do not state how to provide that help. It is a standard message given that comes across as performative. It reminds me of the #BlackoutTuesday event that occurred on June 2 on Instagram.
Instead of helping spread what happened, it resulted in the BlackLivesMatter tag becoming full of many solid, black images when before, it was full of posts showing how to provide help during this time. Before #BlackoutTuesday, the BlackLiveMatters Instagram tag was full of people making posts given information on what white privilege is, why it’s important to vote, why people were protesting, what petition you can sign, and where to donate. Now, it is also full of solid, black images, selfies, and self-promotional images.
In order to show change, it requires researching, educating yourself, staying informed. It requires us to go out of our comfort zone by reading about institutional racism and police brutality. It means looking more into the history you were taught in history and primary school. It means reading what Martin Luther King Jr. really had to say during the civil rights movement outside of the “I have a dream” speech we were shown numerous times. It’s about knowing the harsh truth of what it has been like for Black people living in this country.
But what is easier for us to accept, a standard statement that makes us feel like we’re doing enough to show support or actually educating ourselves that’ll cause us to have to self-reflect?
This article was updated on June 3 at 8:09 p.m. due to all four officers involved in George Floyd’s death being arrested with Derek Chauvin now being charged with second-degree murder.