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  • Writer's pictureDavid Nagai

Racism in the US

Updated: May 21, 2021

On May 25th, 2020, Mr. George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, USA.

Here is what happened...

A store clerk had called the police because it was suspected that Mr. Floyd had used a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill at the store. The police officer came, handcuffed Mr. Floyd (even though he was not proven guilty), and pressed him to the ground. With his knee on Mr. Floyd’s throat, and despite Mr. Floyd saying, “I can’t breathe,” after eight minutes and forty-six seconds, Mr. Floyd took his final breath. Even if Mr. Floyd had been guilty, he obviously did not deserve to be murdered.

Why did Mr. Floyd die? Because he was Black.

Systemic racism in the US

In order to understand why Mr. Floyd was killed and why there have been huge protests in the US, let’s take a look at the history of systemic racism in the US. As we do so, keep in mind that the entire justice system in the US has complex problems that are intertwined, but one large factor is racism.

Slavery in the US was officially abolished in 1865. However, Jim Crow laws in the southern US enforced racial segregation in public places for 100 years (until 1965), which was when the Black community finally gained full rights – at least in theory.

Prior to 1965 and even after the date, Black communities were discriminated against through “redlining.” Redlining was a practice where banks would discriminate against Black neighborhoods in terms of housing opportunities and loans. This meant that Black families were less likely to buy homes and build economic security as fast as White families. Since local schools in the US are partially funded by property tax, the poorer Black neighborhoods were unable to fund their schools as well as non-black neighborhoods were able to.

So ultimately, this meant that Black neighborhoods were isolated, had lower income, and had lower levels of education. And of course, this created a cycle where Black students were less likely to attend university and less likely to get high-paying jobs.

Why? Because they were Black.

Even if they managed to work hard and get into university and succeed, they would often face implicit or explicit discrimination from employers when they applied for good jobs.

Why? Because they were Black.

Fast forward to the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and yes, 2020. Black people have consistently been discriminated against in many ways. But the form of discrimination that has been among the most harmful has been that of police brutality and murder. That’s right – innocent Black citizens that were murdered by the police.

Perhaps the US has become less racist over the years due to more diversity, education, and evolutionary awareness. Or, perhaps not.

The technology of video cameras and then smartphones has increased the ability for people to film police violence and publicize the horrific acts in the news and on social media. So perhaps video technology and the Internet have been what has simply exposed the police violence and racism that has always festered in the US. Before it was hidden. Now it has finally been increasingly brought into the light.

But now the scale has tipped. Now the Black community, along with their allies from all races, have protested against systemic racism that has not been held accountable enough – until now.

What do the protesters want?

So, since Mr. Floyd’s death, what have the protesters been trying to accomplish?

They want justice, equality, and true freedom for the Black community. Not just in theory, but in reality.

But what does this look like specifically? Well, there are many parts to it and not everyone fully agrees. Let me share some ideas to help paint a picture.

Many protesters want to completely reform (change) the way police departments function. Other Americans want to adjust how the police function, but not as extremely.

When protesters chant, “Defund the police!” they are demanding in part that the police departments be removed because they are so unhelpful and waste tax dollars. Then, instead of wasting money on expensive weapons and violent police, the funding could be used for social workers, psychiatrists, and drug counseling, etc. to empower local communities.

In addition, funding could be allocated to various education and social programs that would empower people to create better lives for themselves in a positive and peaceful way. This could fix the problem of underfunding in many school districts that are underfunded due to the history of redlining and discrimination.

So, as usual, America is polarized – it’s divided and arguing about what the best way forward is. Some want extreme change. Other people want smaller degrees of change. And many politicians are struggling to know which people they want to please or upset.

There is one thing that the majority of America’s non-racist citizens can agree on – that Black Lives Matter, more change is necessary, and that it is needed now.

The idea that “Black Lives Matter” can be confusing for some people. This does not mean that Blacks are better or more important that Whites, Asians, or anyone else. Of course, all lives matter.

The phrase “Black Lives Matter” simply recognizes that Blacks are brutalized and killed more than anyone else, at least in America. It acknowledges that they face the most horrific injustice. It recognizes that we must march together with our Black sisters and brothers in order to finally recognize their painful history and to stand with them as we move into a more peaceful, equal, and dignified future.

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