What does it take to incite change?
Recent occurrences prove that it takes way too much. A pandemic, for example, and government-issued orders instead of common sense, simply to make people stay home. Even then, there are those not adhering to social distancing and the safety guidelines of wearing masks when doing essential grocery shopping.
But a pandemic is something that affects the whole world. It’s something that can harm anyone, regardless of gender, sex, age or race. So how do you convince the world, or even just one country, to change for the better when something so horrible is happening to mainly one race?
Police brutality is something that white people can ignore, seeing as it’s something that will probably never happen to them. If someone breaks into a white person’s home or harasses them on the street, they don’t have to worry about calling the police. The police are there to help them, to protect them — why shouldn’t they depend on them?
But for people of color, especially black people, this isn’t true. Something as simple as being pulled over or standing outside a gas station at night could be a death sentence for them. Not to mention being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or having the cops called on them for looking “suspicious.”
White people always have an authority figure to go to, a system in place to protect them, but even when they’re the victim of the crime, black people will most likely never feel as safe as a white person when they call 911. Not unless major changes are made, at least.
Monday, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer. The Police Department stated that he resisted the officers, but nearby security footage didn’t show any attempt to resist arrest, according to The New York Times. After having already been handcuffed, Floyd was suffocated to death by a police officer kneeling on his neck, continuing to do so after he’d already passed out and pleaded for his life, saying he couldn’t breathe, according to The New York Times.
It’s a horrible occurrence, not unlike the tons of others we’ve bared witness to in recent years. And yet, after all this time and all these deaths and all these acts of racism, it’s still happening.
To make matters worse, so many people still argue that incidents like these aren’t acts of racism at all. And yet, I can’t remember a single instance where I read in the news about something like this happening to a white person. People claim that these things aren’t acts of racism, that the police officer could’ve done it just as easily to a white person or that they were acting in self-defense, but these are excuses wrapped in thinly veiled racism.
So many of these police brutality cases include people of color coming quietly, being assaulted and then pleading for their lives. This isn’t even the first case of a black person being choked to death. The same thing happened to Eric Garner in 2014, who also said, “I can’t breathe,” while being suffocated.
For the number of times these cruelties have happened, one would think that change would have occurred by now. In 2013, the #BlackLivesMatter movement began after Trayvon Martin was shot to death by police officer George Zimmerman, who was acquitted.
Seven long years of people drawing attention to these horrific acts that occur so frequently, and yet it’s still occurring.
Change needs to happen, and it needs to happen now.
Those of us with white privilege need to recognize our privilege and use it to amplify the voices of black people and help incite change.
The road to becoming a police officer needs to become much more challenging, including background checks that provide a history of absolutely no acts of racism on an applicant’s part. Or, perhaps simpler, there could be a hiring freeze on white people. Then, maybe, the preexisting white officers could learn a little bit about equality from their newly initiated peers.
The bottom line is, racism has always existed and, unfortunately, will probably never disappear. In fact, even people who think they aren’t racist probably have ingrained biases, which is why it’s important to actively unlearn racism and continue to absorb new information and educate oneself with every passing day.
Racism should be expunged from this country, but first and foremost, it needs to be expunged from the so-called heroes who are supposed to be protecting it.
Jillian Carey is a junior media arts and design major. Contact Jillian at firstname.lastname@example.org.