In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police, the United States is once again experiencing nationwide demonstrations and public protest. Viral videos of the arresting officer’s use of his knee to restrain Floyd by his neck have led to rightful public outrage.
Although the four officers involved have since been terminated and charged, activists across the country continue to organize protests to address two consistent problems: police brutality and racism. After all, George Floyd’s heartbreaking death adds his name to a long list of high profile killings of Black Americans at the hands of police officers.
Police brutality has historically, continuously, and disproportionately affected Black Americans, specifically Black American men, according to PNAS. Over time, parallels can be drawn between police-involved shootings of Black men.
Even more chilling is the similarity between the killings of George Floyd and of Eric Garner, both of whom were Black victims of police chokeholds. With frequent incidents of police brutality and rare incidents of justice, the problem of inappropriate use of force and lack of accountability is painfully obvious.
The NAACP has provided leadership and demanded reforms in a recent update on these exact two topics including banning knee holds and chokeholds as well as implementing citizen review boards.
Additionally, organizations such as Campaign Zero have provided comprehensive and specific policy goals for ending police brutality. These are the political reforms that require public solidarity in support, the reforms we must call for through protests, petitions, social media and the ballot box.
Yet, how much of our protests have been centered around such concrete goals? Of course, within a nationwide movement of marches and protests, there is bound to be diversity in the reason for participation.
Yet, while numbers may give the fight for justice strength, could it possibly delay the time for results? The fight against racism is both necessary and noble, but political action will not immediately solve such a widespread social problem.
That is not to say action should ignore the serious implicit racial biases that are present within our society and that are evident in the police force, I only express that social issues require a different type of action.
While mass demonstrations are effective in sparking conversation, it is much more the work of in-person interactions that will begin to gradually make positive change within individual mindsets. Besides protests, there are potentially uncomfortable conversations to be had with ourselves, friends or family. We can do both, though changing individual perspectives on race often comes only with time and personal experience.
Protestors are correct. Reform is long overdue, but to get these changes accomplished we need to focus our efforts on fighting for the changes political action can feasibly accomplish.
For now, while the public is aware and primed for action, let us instead organize efforts to focus on long-overdue concrete political goals including the use of force policy reforms and increased police accountability to the public.