Keep those cameras rolling.
Had the now-infamous police killing of George Floyd taken place just 10 years ago, it may have merely resulted in charges against the cop who took it upon himself to press a knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. After all, the reach of social media was only a fraction then of what it is today.
Had the killing taken place 20 years ago, there might have merely been an internal investigation with the offending cop ultimately put on desk duty for some time. After all, cell phone video at that time was extremely low quality, creating room for deniability.
Had the killing taken place any time earlier than that in U.S. history, I suspect there’s a good chance the cop would face no punishment and Floyd would be simply another dead black man, killed under mysterious circumstances by someone in power.
It’s sickening to think how many mothers have been lied to and told their son died because he was not complying with police orders.
Throughout this nation’s entire past, people of color have been oppressed and exploited for the financial benefit of white America. And that oppression has been hidden from the public, obscured in official record and denied by those who have wielded their power inappropriately. For so long the innocent have had no recourse.
But it’s 2020. Everyone has a camera and everyone is the audience.
There’s no denying it anymore — America is guilty of crimes against its own people. And now we’re watching in real time as the tainted institutions that shaped this country are knocked down.
Every day now we are seeing how police are abusing, baiting and deceiving those who have taken to the streets to protest those very actions.
I know many people are being shielded from these images but here’s a sampling of what Twitter users have witnessed in the days since Floyd’s killing:
• Police firing rubber bullets at protesters, perhaps most notably putting out the eye of a Nashville-based journalist who was in Minneapolis covering the initial protest and riots that followed Floyd’s death.
• Police in Philadelphia surrounding a group of protesters from either side and firing tear gas into the mass, knowing the protesters could not escape the painful fumes without trampling one another.
• Police in New York barricading protesters on the Manhattan Bridge in both directions and holding them there for several hours.
It perhaps is no surprise that our militarized police departments are working to protect themselves as they fight against their fellow Americans. Photos and videos show that many of these officers are covering the nameplates and/or badge numbers as they hit the streets in an effort to deter dissent.
This is a disgusting tactic that will ultimately backfire. After all, if it’s not “all cops” who are upholding injustice, then hiding the identities of those who commit atrocities is a gross disservice to the good cops.
My hope is that public sentiment against the U.S. police state will continue to grow in the weeks and months to come and there will be real, lasting change to how law enforcement is conducted and overseen in this country. Some legislation has already been introduced in the Senate and it seems to be a decent start. Along those same lines, leaders in some cities have backed off the heavy-handed approach and, lo and behold, protests have become less violent.
But work must take place beyond that. Americans, led by our black community, must be willing to take on racism imbedded in our prison system, in our educational system, in our health care system and in countless other areas.
We can no longer expect to affect change simply by following the law because we increasingly recognize that many of our laws were written to uphold a system of inequality that is perversely masked by the dream of a democratic wonderland that has been packaged and sold to U.S. citizens for the past few hundred of years.
We’re not buying it anymore.