The brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 is sickening. It was a police officer kneeling on a black man’s neck for almost nine minutes, while the man called for his mother, said he was going to die, repeated that he could not breathe and then became lifeless. He did not have to be subdued in this manner. He had no weapon; he was handcuffed and on the street. Four police officers were there. Despite the pleas, no one pulled the police officer off of Mr. Floyd’s neck. How a police officer, sworn to uphold peace, could treat another human being this way is unfathomable.
This was not an isolated instance of a police officer’s killing a black person in this county. It has happened over and over and over again. Only lately have people added up the names and numbers. Bystander videos show how callous many of the killings are.
It is not surprising that the brutal murder of Mr. Floyd sparked protests throughout the country. We agree with those who believe that the protests raise much wider concerns about racism in our country, which dates back to slavery, and includes the refusal to recognize black people as human beings in the U.S. Constitution, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, federally sponsored segregation and redlining of black neighborhoods, and federal-and state-sanctioned discrimination.
After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, there were massive protests and riots throughout the country. The Kerner Commission, appointed to study the reasons for the protests and riots, concluded that a root cause was racial inequities. “White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it and white society condones it,” said the report.
That was 50 years ago. And while our nation has made progress since then, we still have too many inequities in jobs, income, wealth, housing, health care, education, and arrests and sentencing, to name some of the most obvious.
As a result of some of these inequities, the COVID-19 pandemic is claiming move lives of black and Latinx people than lives of white people.
Black and Latinx people are more likely to face daily indignities based on their race than white people.
Millions of people in our country are aware of these inequities and have raised their voices and fists in protest, urging that the inequities be addressed now, that we cannot wait.
In Evanston, we face some of the same issues. We have wide disparities in income and wealth. We have a wide disparity in the opportunity/achievement gap among our public school students. We have a decreasing supply of affordable housing and a declining black population.
We have instances of what we think are over-reactions by some police officers, and a failure to use de-escalation techniques that we have been assured the police have been taught.
The RoundTable has reported on these inequities for 20 years and advocated that they be addressed. We will continue to do so as we move forward.
At the protests held in Evanston on May 31 and June 4, we were impressed that thousands of people of all races/ethnicities were participating.
We are encouraged that many people in our community are advocating for a more equitable and just society, and that these demands are being led by many youth and young adults.