America Experiences National Unrest
Beginning on May 26th, the United States has seen widespread national unrest following the murder of 46-year-old George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The murder and lack of immediate actions ignited protests that are still continuing today, calling for substantial reform and justice for black lives that were victims of police brutality. Almost everyone has an opinion on the matter, but a short stroll through social media platforms exposes a reality of ambivalent racism in the U.S. regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. Responses so far have included either denying the need for any change, condemning the goals of the movement as a way to put it down, or paint all protestors as violent or harmful to discredit the cause, but the movement doesn’t seem to be stopping soon. Although Floyd’s murderer and accomplices have been arrested, the BLM protests are calling for larger systematic change to the institution that allowed for this happen in the first place. As such, the unrest is bound to continue if the government doesn’t step up and respond to their demands.
Now, 10 days after the fact, the full story along with video recordings and security camera footage has been released, and the public is made aware of the complete situations. According to sources, the 46-year-old was arrested by 4 police officers who arrived after a deli worker called 911, accusing Floyd of using a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd was not seen resisting the arrest, and sources show that he was cooperative when officer Derek Chauvin, whose record shows 17 previous complaints against him, pulled him out of the police car’s back seat and pinned him to the ground and placed his knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd cried out for help and clearly stated that he could not breathe. He soon became unconscious as witnesses yelled at Chauvin to get off of him; he didn’t. Although officer Thao, now charged with aiding and abetting murder, yelled at witnesses while they recorded, Chauvin, now charged with second-degree murder was calm throughout the situation and kept his knee on Floyd’s neck while he was unconscious and until he was told to remove it by an EMT. Chauvin knew very clearly that he was being filmed, and his calm demeanor emphasizes the corrupt nature of the U.S. police. His belief that what he was doing was okay highlights how complicit society is when it comes to issues of black lives. Chauvin really believed he would be protected, which he would have been if it wasn’t for the outrage of the BLM movement.
History of Police Brutality in the U.S.
Although the 4 officers are now arrested for the murder of Floyd, it is important to understand that the outrage is a result of decades of similar stories. George Floyd was not an isolated incident, but part of a larger corrupt system. Research shows that African Americans in the U.S. are 3 times more likely than white people to be killed by the police even though they are 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed compared to white people. Evidence shows that 99% of these killings do not end in a conviction. Not only is this an issue of unjustified murders, but it also highlights how the police work as extensions of a prejudiced and racist system that causes POC communities to consistently be torn apart, feeding into larger issues of mass incarceration and poverty. Therefore, the current protests are not simply calling for justice to be served in this specific case, but for substantial reform in law enforcement. Unless this reform is delivered on a large scale, the unrest is bound to continue.
Here’s What Reform Could Look Like
Despite ignorant exaggerations and sensationalized news, reform is both achievable and evidently effective. According to Campaign Zero, reform to law enforcement should include the demilitarization of police departments, defunding the police in favor of sponsoring community development, as well as supporting increased training and limiting the use of force. In addition, there needs to be independent investigations for issues of power abuse in the police department to ensure justice and an increase in community representation within the police department. There needs to be a higher standard for police officers’ ability to deescalate situations and perform arrests. This is what the movement is calling for, and that is why arresting the 4 officers responsible for Floyd’s murder is simply the beginning.
What is Your Role?
In the midst of this uprising, every single person is needed for the movement to reach its goals. You can help by donating and signing petitions, as well as going to protests and educating people in your life and online. Additionally, and more importantly, educate yourself and listen to black people when they are discussing these issues. Misinformation is abundant and anyone is susceptible to it. For example, the All Lives Matter movement or statement is not only harmful and insulting, but it is also ignorant and counterproductive because it completely misunderstands or misconstrues the goals of the movement. The statement, Black Lives Matter, is simple and straight forward, and should not be thought of as controversial. Black lives do matter and the goals of this movement and these protests are working to make sure social structures treat black lives as such.