Black Lives Matter
On May 25, George Floyd, was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin while three other officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, stood by and did nothing to stop him. Chauvin is white. Floyd was black. Lane is also white; Kueng and Thao are believed to be of Asian descent.
This kind of horrific brutality against African Americans is not rare in Minneapolis. During the past five years, the police used force against black people at a rate at least seven times that of white people. This disproportionate finding is also not limited to Minneapolis. A recent study out of Rutgers University found that about 1 in 1,000 black men and boys in America are likely to be killed by police, which is 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys.
The prevalence of police violence stems from deeply held stereotypes about black people, especially males, as thugs, degenerates and subhuman. Our country’s founding and systemic racism against black Americans fuels this culture through tacit approval. Systemic racism creates and perpetuates social and institutional systems that reinforce discrimination and inequality. It also creates barriers that limit and undermine black people’s success.
However, unlike other police killings of black people, the video of officer Chauvin murdering Floyd galvanized hundreds of thousands of protestors in over 400 US cities and towns in all 50 states and abroad to condemn police violence and support “Black Lives Matter.” These, largely, peaceful protests have already had a nation-wide impact and resulted in the arrest of and criminal charges against all four officers. Federal, state and local governments are considering and drafting legislation to limit law enforcement’s excessive use of force. Of course, these actions are barely the tip of the iceberg.
Community Action has its roots in civil rights because black people are disproportionately poor. In the mid 1960’s we worked to create equity in housing, jobs and wages. We have also always strived to eliminate the barriers and social structures that keep people poor.
We now face a bigger challenge; recognize that “white privilege” not white supremacy, is the insidious force that perpetuates systemic racism. In a letter addressed to Thomas Mercer (c. 1770), Edmund Burke wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Those of us born white, while we may be “good people” have not had to deal with racial profiling. We have not been denied loans or stopped by police because of the color of our skin. It is now incumbent upon us to refuse to accept the status quo and eradicate the racism that allowed Chauvin to murder Floyd while the world watched.
We must educate ourselves about how to, “be the change we want to see.” We can invite our black friends and co-workers to share their experiences and listen with open minds. We can support black-owned businesses and donate time and money to organizations like the ones listed below. Most importantly, we can use our vast experience as activists to stand with our colleagues, friends and neighbors of color and raise our voices as we “…petition the government for redress of grievances…” until equal rights are a reality for everyone. Anything less will continue to allow evil to triumph.