It has been nearly four months since the world witnessed the senseless murder of Mr. George Floyd by the hands of former Minnesota police officer Dereck Chauvin. Sadly enough, but expected, several other police-involved deaths or questionable shootings causing severe injuries to black men have happened since. CBS News recently published a study that noted black men were 3.1 times more likely to be killed by the police than whites even if they are unarmed. Why the disparity? This is a question for all of us to answer in a thoughtful, productive way instead of dismissing the systemic institutional prejudices that exist toward black people.
Yes, the shackles and chains have been removed. The Jim Crow segregated south was upended, but the long-lasting effects of those purposeful intentions are alive and well. During slavery and the Jim Crow era, black people were subjected to discriminatory laws that legalized our devaluation and dehumanization. Those laws led to sanctioned terroristic acts of violence such as the infamous 1921 “Black Wall Street Massacre” in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 1923 “Rosewood Massacre” in Rosewood, Florida, and the 1960 “Ax Handle Saturday” KKK attack in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 2020, blacks are still dealing with the effects of being considered less than equal. The continued devaluation of black people now stands as justification to some folks in the majority when they witness minorities killed or seriously injured by those who swore to uphold the law. When we try to express those concerns using platforms like Black Lives Matter, we are labeled thugs and terrorists or trying to make a political statement.
Do we not see the hypocrisy? Why is it more important to focus on what the protestors are doing instead of why they are doing it? It is because of the constant dehumanization and devaluation of minority people. This treatment gives way to people like Dereck Chauvin, George Zimmerman, Dylann Roof, Michael Dunn, Gregory & Travis McMichael, and ‘Officer Whomever.’ Yes, it also means kids like 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse.
The systematic othering of Black people has been used to promote a false narrative that George Floyd would have died anyway rather than from the depletion of oxygenated blood to his brain. Without conspiracy theories like these, what makes it possible for anyone to witness a black man be brutally asphyxiated to death on camera and say he deserved it?
What makes it possible for a black man to be shot seven times in the back by a police force claiming he was a threat, but then drive by a white male who was actually armed and had just killed two people?
What makes it possible for a naked, handcuffed, mentally-disturbed black man to be suffocated to death by the police?
What makes it acceptable for a grand jury to rule no wrongful death laws were violated even though an innocent, young black woman was executed in the middle of the night, at her home by indiscriminate police gunfire?
It is not just a coincidence. We are witnessing the mechanisms of systemic racism delegitimize the rights and concerns of minority people. Black people are not terrorists, thugs, animals, criminals, or rapists. We’re your neighbor’s. We’re parents on your child’s soccer and baseball teams. We’re church members that sit next to you on the pew. We’re your co-workers, doctors, dentists, lawyers, police officers, favorite athletes, and yes, one of us was your President. Most importantly, we are your fellow Americans and friends.
We can do better, America. We must do better.
Master Gunnery Sergeant