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4 Years After George Floyd's Murder, Police Brutality Against Blacks In US Remains Societal Problem

26.05.2024 03:57

'I don’t know that the United States has addressed ... anti blackness that has supported systematic violence against Black people,' says Rice University professor.

The death of George Floyd, a black man, in 2020 at the hands of four police officers in the state of Minnesota still resonates as a major societal problem in America: police brutality against Blacks.

"I don't know that the United States has addressed in significant ways anti-blackness that has supported systematic violence against Black people," said Anthony Pinn, a professor of humanities at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

It was May 25, 2020, when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes as Floyd cried out, "I can't breathe," until he died, as three fellow officers watched and did nothing to intervene.

Floyd's death sparked outrage across the world, prompting protests about the senseless brutality against Blacks by police officers in the US.

Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and is serving a 22 1/2-year state sentence which is being served concurrently with his 21-year federal conviction for violating Floyd's civil rights. The other officers -- Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao -- were convicted in Floyd's death and were handed prison sentences ranging between three and four years.

"The conviction of those officers isn't enough because the problem isn't a matter of individuals. It's systemic and it requires changes that impact policies and practices on the collective level," Pinn told Anadolu. "The conviction of those officers is important, but it doesn't render Black people safe on a societal level. The demand for systemic changes is still as important as ever."

Since Floyd's death, there have been other high-profile cases of police officers killing Black people: Amir Locke in Minnesota, Patrick Lyoya in Michigan and Jayland Walker in Ohio, to name a few. Protests have taken place after many of those killings, but police violence against Blacks still happens to this day.

"I believe the protests revolving around the murder of George Floyd, and others, has made us deeply aware of a long history of racial disregard and the many ways in which it is acted out," said Pinn, who acknowledged the power of protest, despite the continued killing of Black people by police. "The protest stemming from these murders, and this is really important, has also made it much more difficult to normalize or justify the abuse of racial minorities in the form of police brutality."

Pinn said the killing of Black people by police is nothing new in America. He emphasized that the violence is a racial and police issue that stems from hundreds of years of racism.

"It's important to keep in mind that race and policing are connected, for example, in that much of what we currently have in the form of policing is tied to the logic of slave patrols developed in the 1770s," said Pinn. "Life in the USA is racialized, and that physical marker of difference always impacts our interactions. It impacts how policing takes place, who is most aggressively policed, how we describe certain communities as problematic and certain people a threat."

Pinn believes the only way to change the systemic problem of racism and police brutality is to have laws that hold officers accountable for their actions, which is exactly what happened after Floyd's murder.

"I think one of the things that should be mentioned is The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that is meant to address, on the national level, issues of racial profiling and police brutality," said Pinn about the bill that narrowly passed the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate. "However, it seems to me, a solution has to involve real attention to anti-black racism, to the ways in which people of African descent have been understood as a problem to solve. Without addressing anti-black racism, white supremacy and white privilege, it will be difficult to develop a more humane approach to 'law and order.'"

Pinn is optimistic that the tides will turn and police brutality and racism will diminish as time goes on, but he said society has to acknowledge the problem head-on and not forget about the injustices that have already happened.

"It seems to me, in the USA, outrage over injustice and effort to make fundamental corrections is often short-lived, although the consequences of injustice are long lasting," said Pinn. "I want to believe the protest sparked by so many examples of death has forced us to think differently about the nature of our democracy."

Pinn believes America is aware of its national flaws and shortcomings when it comes to injustices against Blacks and that lawmakers have the ability to come up with creative strategies to make positive changes in society.

"I would want to connect the murder of George Floyd to systemic practices of injustice. And, in that way, I would want to target the need for more fundamental change occasioned by graphic episodes of disregard and racial injustice," said Pinn. "I would want to connect anti-black racism to other forms of violent marginalization. I would want to highlight not the unjustified murder of George Floyd in isolation, but rather look at the creative and national protest of injustice during the 21st century that highlighted the intersectionality of various forms of marginalization."

Floyd's death may have been four years ago, but the effect of what his tragedy shed a light on in society could still weigh heavily on affecting positive change in the years to come.

"Protest, if nothing else, makes it much more difficult to normalize injustice, and that troubling of our national conscience has the potential to last," said Pinn.

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