The last week of May in 2020 has proven to be one of the most chaotic and meaningful weeks of the year. Not only has the global pandemic caused by the virus known as COVID-19 sent the world spiraling into unknown territory and strict quarantines, but this past week has been filled with riots across the United States in response to the extreme racism and police brutality faced by black people in the states. Everyday this week I have woken up and checked Twitter to see topics trending like #LouisvilleRiots or RIOTS or ACAB or #GeorgeFloyd. What has been occurring in the last week or so is not out of the blue. Anyone who is surprised by these events clearly has not been paying attention. I am sure everyone is paying attention now.
The most recent spark that fed these flames of social injustice was the murder of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by white policeman Derek Chauvin. Chauvin forced Floyd to the ground after discovering Floyd was using a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes at the corner store—a minimal crime that does not require violence by the police. The policeman placed his knee on Floyd’s neck so that he was unable to breathe, claiming Floyd was resisting arrest. Bodycam footage that was later released with audio revealed that not only did Floyd not resist arrest, but Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes, all the while Floyd is yelling that he can’t breathe and begging him to stop. Once Floyd became unconscious, Chauvin continued to hold his knee on Floyd’s neck for 2.5 minutes, even though he had already reported the officers could not find a pulse. Since this murder, riots have swept the nation, in favor of the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement. Unfortunately, many of these riots have escalated to violence, and recorded evidence has shown that policeman have generally been the ones to insight violence and chaos among the previously peaceful protests. Protesters have been shot in the head with rubber bullets, causing major injuries, children have been pepper sprayed, and large groups of protesters have been tear gassed, and even run over by police cars such as in New York City. Yesterday, in Springfield, MO., a civilian drove their car through the crowd of protesters, knocking some to the ground.
By this time, hopefully all of you know this, have heard about it, have been speaking out against it, and educating yourselves. Knowledge, true knowledge, is so valuable right now, we cannot allow headlines and broadcasters to cloud our views without researching the facts. The facts that many people choose to ignore. Facts like: 1 in 1,000 black men and boys in America can expect to die at the hands of police. Black men and boys are 2.5 times more likely to die this way than white men and boys. Study leader Frank Edwards, a sociologist at Rutgers University, pointed out that black men and boys have a better chance of being killed by the police than winning the scratch off lottery (Khan 2019). This should not ever be a real statistic—and yet it is. It has only grown over the last twenty years. The US reported 998 people being fatally shot by policeman in 2018. This number rose to 1,004 in 2019. Mapping Police Violence’s website listed all people killed by policeman in 2019 (not gun-specific), and it added up to 1,099. 24% of that number was made up of black people, despite black peopleonly making up 13% of the entire population of the U.S. These numbers do not add up to a non-biased, non-racist system. We have known that the criminal justice system is against black people, with evidence showing black people are much more likely to go to jail for the exact same crime a white person committed who is not sent to jail (Alexander 2013).
The odds are stacked against black Americans, and it is evident that many people in power have only encouraged this trend. Police forces have not been adhering to the very laws that they claim to enforce. 99% of police officers who have committed murder in 2013-2019 have not been charged with a crime (Mapping Police Violence 2020). Police departments who have implemented use of force policies have significantly less fatalities on their hands, but the issue is few departments are choosing to adopt the policies. Policies such as requiring any act of force to be reported, all other means required to be used before shooting, and choke-holds/strangleholds being banned have all helped decrease the amount of fatalities by those departments. How can we expect law enforcers to make sure others are upholding the law when we have seen time and time again that they do not hold themselves to the same standards?
“Floyd Death Was ‘Premeditated Murder’ – US Lawyer”. BBC News, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52869504.
“Mapping Police Violence”. Mapping Police Violence, 2020, https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/.
“Mapping US Police Killings Of Black Americans”. Aljazeera.com, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2020/05/mapping-police-killings-black-americans-200531105741757.html.
“The Future of Race in America: Michelle Aexander at TEDxColumbus”. YouTube.com, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQ6H-Mz6hgw.
Khan, Amina. “Getting Killed by Police Is A Leading Cause of Death For Young Black Men In America”. Los Angeles Times, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2019-08-15/police-shootings-are-a-leading-cause-of-death-for-black-men.