On September 27, 1966, 60 Minutes aired an interview of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During this interview, Dr. King stated, "I contend that the cry of black power is at bottom a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard and what is that America has failed to hear?”
Fifty-four years later, on May 27, 2020, Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo tweeted out, “His death [George Floyd's] serves as a stark reminder that when bad policing happens, it disproportionately impacts communities of color and poor communities.”
On May 28, 2020, I watched the video of George Floyd’s death — the scene as a Minneapolis police office knelt on his neck and three officers stood by and did nothing to stop it.
I repeatedly mulled over what approach to take when writing about this death, the obvious racial divide on various social media platforms, the rioting and more. I wanted to be careful as to not offend anyone and to not come across as militant, so that my message would not be lost; however, the truth of the matter is this: I live in a country that was founded upon racism, unarmed black men and women are still being murdered by police officers, and I am a black woman who has a black son and a black husband—both of whom are targets every day.
There is a constant rehearsal of trauma and a fear of being black while trying to simply live in America. Our soon-to-be 18 year-old son drives now and every time he leaves our home, I am fearful that he, too, may be brutalized by racism at the hands of an officer who is sworn to serve and protect the community in which he patrols. I am well-aware that not officers of the law are “bad” and not all officers are racist; however, the fact still remains that as many people see it, the “bad cops” far outweigh the good ones in any given precinct.
To put this fear into perspective, think about this: the modern-day police force in the South was organized in 1704 and was then known as the "Slave Patrol.” Dr. Gary Potter, professor of online and on-campus courses for the Eastern Kennedy University School of Justice Studies asserts, “Slave patrols had three primary functions: 1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves, 2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts; and 3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside of the law, if they violated any plantation rules.”
During the Jim Crow era in the United States, this quickly evolved from catching and returning runaway slaves to a more organized, hyper-vigilant group of “law enforcement” with the sole purpose of controlling and terrorizing African Americans.
My point? The police force was never designed to serve and protect black people—it was designed to serve and protect whites by brutalizing and terrorizing anyone of African descent.
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Fast forward 316 years to 2020, and nothing has changed—black people are still slain by these “law enforcers,” we are still terrorized, and we are still living in fear every day. The only difference now, is that their acts of terror are filmed.
You cannot oppress and terrorize a group of people for 316 years, push them to their limits every day of their lives, uphold and defend systems that were purposefully and strategically put into place to disenfranchise them, kill them under the guise of enforcing the law, and then condemn them when they react “inappropriately”. Everyone has an opinion regarding how the residents of Minneapolis should “behave,” yet they offer no solutions to actually deal with the root of the issue.
The “moral police” who troll Facebook and are quick to vocalize their privileged opinions by making racially-charged comments all while hiding behind a computer screen, the Christian groups that are quick to mention that their behavior is not Christ-like and that prayer is needed but refuse to take actions to build up their black communities, the white supremacists and closet racists who seek to justify Officer Derek Chauvin’s kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, and finally, to those who continue to act in compliance — those who remain silent by not voting in an effort to remove the racists from their positions of power, or those who tolerate the racist remarks made at the office water cooler — to them I ask:
What angers you more? The rioting, or the fact that another unarmed black man was killed on camera for the world to see?