We have all watched the horrifying video documenting a helpless African-American’s life being snuffed out by a pitiless and indifferent white police officer in Minneapolis.
African-American bystanders desperately tried to point out that George Floyd was not resisting arrest and then didn’t appear to be breathing during the horrifying 9 minutes officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck. Other cops stood by watching indifferently as Floyd desperately gasped, “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe.”
African-Americans and other minorities have long pointed out how they are imperiled in the United States, that “driving while black or brown” can get them pulled over by cops — and often much worse.
“Wearing a hoodie while black” can result in death, with the killer getting off scot-free, as when George Zimmerman was acquitted for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, 17, in Florida in 2012.
“Jogging while black” was Ahmaud Arbery’s “crime” when he was murdered in February in Georgia at the hands of several white men who have since been arrested.
Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisville police in her own home on March 13 during a bungled “no-knock” drug search intended for a home miles away belonging to men already in custody.
Even “bird-watching while black” led to a recent confrontation in Central Park, which fortunately did not escalate but could have endangered the life of Harvard grad Christian Cooper.
Black and brown Americans in the United States are continually aware of their vulnerability. As Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said after Floyd’s murder, “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
Our nation is already on edge. The pandemic is exposing glaring inequities and injustices in the United States. One in four Americans is unemployed, with African-American and Latinx communities disproportionately affected by the economic downturn. Black and Hispanic Americans are also disproportionately catching and dying of COVID-19. And it is a national shame that the Navajo Nation’s coronavirus infection rate has become the highest in the country, that many in the tribe do not even have running water on the reservation and that the federal response has been botched. This is another tragic way in which being a racial minority in the United States can become a death sentence.
Americans — white and black, religious or freethinking — must speak up and demand not only justice for Floyd, but a national reckoning with racial profiling, police brutality, vigilantism and institutional indifference and racism.