Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.A. – It is no secret that American society is haunted with numerous faults and flaws that the average citizen tends to brush under the rug. Ignoring our problems is a much easier course of action than actually facing them in confrontation.
But what happens when one of our own, average every-day citizens ends up dead as a result of this inaction?
George Floyd was an average citizen, after all, with family, friends, and a community who loved and cared for him. He was an average citizen who was simply suspected of a crime, and entitled to particular rights in the process of investigating the alleged crime.
He was an average citizen who merely possessed skin that contained higher amounts of melanin than others.
He was an average citizen who was black, and it was because of this that his right to breathe was taken away from him by Minneapolis police officers on Thursday, May 25, 2020, resulting in his untimely death.
In other words, the officers who are responsible for the protection and service of the people are those who inflicted irreversible harm on one such person.
This case is definitely not the first in a string of callous murders of innocent people that have occurred in very recent history. Floyd’s death is closely preceded by the case of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot dead while jogging on February 23.
Additionally, Floyd’s death – and his last words, the plea, “I can’t breathe” – holds an uncanny resemblance to that of Eric Garner, who was strangled to death in 2014 by New York police.
Shamefully, these are only a couple of cases out of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of hate crimes and bloodshed that have occurred against people of color, and particularly black people, since the beginning of American history.
This says many things about American society as a whole. Double standards haunt the Constitution’s guarantee of justice, as the same action that would cause the death of a black person might not even result in the punishment of a white person.
And not only has the stigma attached to darker skin tones been perpetuated so much to the point that our history cannot be recounted without it – and that it still prevails even today – but it also puts America’s blatant hypocrisy on display.
The very same country that boasts about freedom and justice has allowed agents of the state to repeatedly take away these very rights from an entire race of people with little to no consequences.
This is easily shown in Floyd’s case, where, before the release of the video clearly showing his manner of death, all perpetrators would not have been punished and the matter diluted to something much less than it truly is.
It is only after the video was released that Derek Chauvin, the officer who planted his knee into Floyd’s neck, was charged with third-degree murder. As of this writing, no charges have been brought against the three other police officers involved, although all four were fired from the force.
This leads us to another one of the most important concepts in the Constitution: the idea of checks and balances. No one branch of government is to have an undue amount of power compared to the others, so as to prevent corruption.
Why, then, have we not effectively implemented this concept upon our police?
With the blue wall of silence being such a prevalent notion and aspect of cop culture, and a mere badge the indicator of all that is good and right, who exactly is policing the police? Not the government or our flawed justice system, that’s for certain.
As such, it is up to us, fellow average citizens of George Floyd and every other victim of racism and police brutality, to stand up to what is happening and to check the actions of law enforcement. This basic premise is present in America’s origin story.
John Locke, the Enlightenment philosopher whose ideas the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were based upon, advocated the concept of a social contract in government in which there exists an agreement between the ruler and the people.
The people possess the natural, inviolable rights of life, liberty, and property, and they will respect their ruler and government so long as the authority in question respects these rights and protects them. In the case that the government goes against this agreement and violates those rights, the people also possess the right to overthrow the corrupt authority and establish a new one in its place.
This is one of the key ideas that sparked the American Revolution in the first place.
The U.S. may have been created with the intent of implementing liberty and justice for all, but that notion is far from reality. These inalienable rights have been anything but in the case of our black brothers and sisters.
George Floyd was unable to breathe, and nor should we, with the amount of problems concealed beneath our rugs and the blood of innocent people on our passive hands.
We, the people of the United States, no matter our race, ethnicity, culture, religion, or creed, are duly responsible for vacuuming the dust we have continuously swept under the rug for centuries.
We, the people of the United States, are responsible for acknowledging that America is still far from the dream it was created to achieve, and for doing our parts in turning that dream into a reality.
Salma Amrou is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.