Opinion by ANASTASIA ZOLOTOVA
Published June 5, 2020
The father of Gianna Floyd, a 6-year-old girl from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was murdered at the hands of police on May 25. George Floyd was unarmed when four officers arrested him on the street–an arrest he did not resist–yet one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, kept his knee on Floyd’s neck while he begged, “I can’t breathe.” Floyd died nine minutes later.
On June 3, his daughter said in a viral video, “Daddy changed the world.”
Floyd was not the first black person who has fallen victim to police brutality in America, but his death, captured on video and displayed for the entire world to see, ignited worldwide protests against excessive use of force by police and against America’s entrenched system of institutionalized racism. Only a month before, we learned of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man whose killing was videotaped by the white men who hunted him down while he was jogging, and Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by police in her own home.
And though Floyd’s murder was videoed, it took four days for Chauvin to be arrested and charged and nine days for the other three officers involved. But these charges, while a first step in the right direction in achieving far overdue justice for Floyd, do not solve the deeper issue of police brutality. When the president himself stokes the flames of white supremacy and racial divisions, threatening American citizens on Twitter with “vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons,” it is no longer an option to turn a blind eye, especially for white people.
Recently, many of my Carmel High School classmates and I have expressed our support of the Black Lives Matter movement by posting a black square on our social media with the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday–but there is much more that we as white Americans can do to help.
We are privileged enough to be given the choice of neutrality because our lives are not the ones at stake. But when centuries go by while black people continue to die at the hands of police and nothing changes, we can no longer be neutral or apolitical. Being non-racist is no longer enough, either, so we must become actively anti-racist. We owe it to Floyd’s family–and the families of all the other black Americans who’ve been victims of hate crimes and police brutality–to not only take our knee off black people’s necks, but give them a hand up. We owe it to the families of Arbery and Taylor. We owe it to Gianna.
The responsibility for driving structural societal change might feel overwhelming. But there will be no change if white people don’t own that responsibility––one that is duly ours, given that white people were the ones who set up these systems of oppression in the first place. We need to actively call out racism wherever we see it, whether that be at the family dinner table or on the internet, call out racism gently but firmly to let them know that such views are no longer okay. We need to sign petitions; we need to pick up the phone, call the people in power and demand justice for Floyd, for Arbery, for Taylor and for every other black person before them who has been murdered because of the color of their skin. And we must go beyond demanding justice after the fact: We must dismantle these systems to prevent these tragedies from happening at all, starting with large-scale reform in police departments nationwide.
This would include banning the use of chokeholds, which the Minneapolis PD has announced it will do as of June 5, reporting all use of excessive force and redirecting funds from police departments to other grossly underfunded public departments, including health care, transportation and other community programs, especially those directly benefiting black Americans. In Los Angeles, for example, as The Guardian explains, the police budget is $1.8 billion per year, which is approximately half of the city’s general fund.
This is the time to stop with empty words and thoughts and prayers, and instead back up our outrage with real action. All of us can and must take the small steps needed to educate ourselves and those around us.
I will never understand what it’s like to feel afraid that I’ll be killed because of the color of my skin, nor what it’s like to feel fear while jogging in broad daylight––because that’s what Arbery was doing at the time of his death. He was jogging. He was jogging through his neighborhood when he was hunted down and killed.
No white person will ever fully understand, but we can listen. We can learn. We can use our white privilege to speak up because ALL LIVES DON’T MATTER UNTIL BLACK LIVES MATTER. And here in Carmel, although we can’t participate in protests as large-scale as those in New York City or Los Angeles, both you and I can still make a difference by doing the following:
- Watch this Youtube video featuring the work of black artists and musicians to help the movement for free from the comfort from your own home. All ad revenue is donated to organizations and causes like the American Civil Liberties Union, bail bonds and Black Lives Matter: youtu.be/bCgLa25fDHM
- Donate to these worthy causes:
- The George Floyd Memorial Fund to support the family of George Floyd with funeral costs, legal fees, etc.: gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd
- Bail bonds for protestors who have been jailed for protesting against police brutality. Here is a complete list of bail funds listed alphabetically by state/region: bailfunds.github.io/
- A national bail fund: communityjusticeexchange.org/nbfn-directory
- A relief fund for black-owned businesses, especially those damaged or destroyed during riots: gofundme.com/f/helping-hand-access-pr
- Sign this petition demanding charges to be filed against the police officers responsible for Taylor’s death. Today, June 5, would have been her 27th birthday: change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor
- Use this quick and easy email template to email Attorney General Daniel Cameron of Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville and Police Chief Robert Shroeder of Louisville to demand justice for Taylor: tinyurl.com/EmailBreonnaTaylor
- Check out the books on this list by New York Magazine (“12 Anti-Racist Books Recommended by Educators and Activists”): nymag.com/strategist/article/anti-racist-reading-list.html
- If you’re 18 or older, VOTE. Research each candidate, whether at the local, state or national level, and determine whether their values and morals line up with yours. Come November, you need to make the decision of whether you support a president who tear-gassed peaceful protestors outside the White House to clear the way for a photo-op with a Bible.
To quote the Reverend Al Sharpton, “I’d like him to open that Bible and read Ecclesiastes 3: ‘To every season, there is a time.’ I’d like him to understand what time it is…. This is the time for dealing with accountability in the criminal justice system.”