This last week has seen a lot of pain, anguish and frustration across America. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died during an arrest in Minneapolis as a white police officer held a knee against Floyd’s neck. The horrific scene was captured on video. Since then, protests have sprung up across the nation as people from all backgrounds decry police brutality against minorities, in particular the black community. High-profile figures, from Hollywood stars to iconic sports figures and many more in between, have voiced their outrage over Floyd’s death. What the video showed is disgusting, sickening and should concern every American, regardless of your background. People are incensed, demand for their voices to be heard and have come together to peacefully protest and assemble in municipalities from coast to coast. Organizations across multiple spectrums have voiced their support for the peaceful protests, for change and for the black community. People have a right to peacefully protest against injustices. However, riots, violence, theft and destruction have occurred in some cities across the nation, undermining peaceful demonstration. We have witnessed curfews in cities across the U.S., hoping to minimize violence. We have witnessed these ills, playing out on television and/or social media platforms, but we have also seen incredible displays of humanity, from food donations to cleaning up city streets and businesses after some long nights. We see people standing together, marching for a peaceful change in our society and it reminds us of how many before have called for systematic reform. The path to change is not through violence because violence will only continue to sow seeds of distrust already present between law enforcement and minorities. Violence does not solve problems. It only creates more. Speaking up is a much more powerful “weapon.” In this country, everyone has a voice and everyone can be heard. Standing by silently is dangerous because holding the powerful accountable is paramount for a democracy to function.
One way we hold the powerful accountable is through a free press that is able to report on the news without fear. On Friday, a CNN crew in Minneapolis was arrested on live television for, essentially, attempting to cover the protests. They were shortly thereafter released, but while covering the demonstrations, some journalists have been targeted with tear gas and rubber bullets for simply trying to tell the stories of the protests. If the press cannot independently report and feel some sense of security in doing its job, can the stories really be told?
Unfortunately, Floyd is one of many to have lost their lives as a result of excessive force by authorities. Injustices against minorities have gone on for far too long, but the protests go beyond excessive force and police brutality. Much of the peaceful assembly seen is about rooting out a much larger problem: racism. Racism has been a disgrace to America’s values for centuries. While progress has been made, much more work needs to be done and it is evident through what happened to George Floyd. A man who deserved to be treated with the same dignity as you or I. Decency. Respect. It’s not a political issue; rather, it’s about human rights. There must be accountability throughout all police departments across the nation, where a badge does not equal a license to wield unchecked authority. When the police do something wrong, they should be scrutinized. When a police officer(s) commit a crime, they should be punished just like any other citizen of the United States. To decrease the tensions, transparency and openness with the community is imperative. When people trust each other, there’s more cooperation. That all being said, I have full confidence that the majority of police officers across the country are fair, hard-working, good-natured guardians of the law. I’m sure many in police departments across the U.S. are angered, saddened and flummoxed over what took place in Minneapolis. These protests are not about people versus all police/authority. It’s about people against racism, prejudice and bigotry, including that which exists within police ranks.
So what does this mean for society? Through meaningful dialogue, we must discuss real solutions to real problems. Silence and complacency will never lead to progress. America must take a collective look in the mirror and ask, “Is this who we are?” So what should this mean for you? Don’t be silent. Speak up. Be engaged. And, most of all, denounce racism and bigotry in all its forms. This is not a problem that gets solved overnight. This is something we must all commit ourselves to working through, together.