1st letter

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant speaks as demonstrators hold a “Black Lives Matter” rally outside of the Seattle Police Departments East Precinct, on June 8, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

On May 25 in Minneapolis, with his left knee pinning and pressing down the neck of George Floyd into the ground, a police officer along with three other officers not only snuffed life out of Floyd but they indeed extinguished life in American conscience. The 8 minutes and 46 seconds of uninterrupted squeezing of Floyd’s neck by the rogue police officers as he was dying and crying “I Can’t Breathe” set a new low for American police brutality against its own citizens. These actions were also a blatant assault on basic human dignity, decency and democratic values of America.

George had been taken into police custody only few minutes ago for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a cigarette purchase at the convenient store in front. It defies logic as to why would the police officer administer a torturous treatment to a person on such a petty charge.

The answer to this or other similar incidents involving the deaths of Black men in America deserves a deeper introspection and examination of attitudes that impact race relations in America. While happenings like Floyd’s death by police are rare in the general population, such incidents, arrests, incarcerations and capital punishments are observed far too often against African-Americans.

America has painfully witnessed too many instances involving deaths of innocent American Black men at the hands of civilians and law-enforcement officials. In most of these cases the justice system has not been fair or equitable to Black victims either by acquittal of the perpetrators or lighter punishments. Also, when a Black perpetrator is involved in the commission of a crime, often the penalties imposed are harsher compared to the non-Black counterparts. Such uneven and discriminatory dispensation of justice by the system is indeed indicative of inherent systemic bias against Blacks.

America has had its history with the evil of institutional slavery, segregation, and discrimination against the people of African origin. But today, while significant reforms have been made in local, state and federal laws to guide societal conduct since the Civil Rights Act passage, remnants of the past evils continue to erupt in some American minds and psyche who cannot let go of their bias and prejudice for reasons of their traditional believe in their inherent racial superiority. This is apparent from continued instances of violations of civil rights, discrimination, and dispensation of unequal justice to people of color. It is against this mindset and background that one has to view and judge the actions of the officers who decided to administer inhuman treatment of neck pressing to kill Floyd.

This incident has indeed opened deep raw wounds of the past created over 400 hundred years’ history and raises serious questions about the promise, spirit, and conscience of America as it relates to all its citizens. Is this what 21st century America is going to be about – discrimination and injustice? Can minorities and people of color feel safe in America at the hands of those who are supposed to protect the society?

The death of George Floyd is indeed a time for America to pause and examine its conscience, identify systemic societal problems, and make a collective deliberate effort to make racial accommodation a priority in its social construct.

Chandra Mittal

Houston, Texas        

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