These are heartbreaking times for the United States of America. The killing of George Floyd has given rise to a spasm of grief and anguish that has brought thousands to the streets to protest. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor — they are just the latest names in a drumbeat of black Americans whose lives were taken in brutal fashion.
“We are witnessing America as a failed social experiment,” Cornel West said on Friday night. “The history of black people for over 200-some-years has been looking at America’s failure. Its capitalist economy could not deliver in such a way that people could live lives of decency. The nation-state, its criminal justice system, its legal system could not generate protection of rights and liberties. And now our culture of course is so market-driven, everybody for sale, everything for sale, it can’t deliver the kind of real nourishment for soul, for meaning, for purpose. And so when you get this perfect storm of all of these multiple failures at these different levels of the American empire . . . we can’t take it any longer. It looks as if the system cannot reform itself.”
George Floyd’s death is the catalyst but his dehumanizing death before our eyes was the latest bloody sign that we have been failing far too many people for too long. Police mistreatment of black Americans is both a reality and a moral stain that threatens to tear our country apart. Police departments are unable to police themselves. And local officials are loathe to antagonize law enforcement members that are often among their most powerful and unified constituents.
When I met with a Black Lives Matter activist last year, he suggested that we needed a new Federal Taskforce that is dedicated to investigating police malfeasance. That’s the only way it would be immune to local influence. I agree. We need a new approach based on the needs and views of the community itself. Right now no one even knows how many people are shot and killed each year or die in police custody because the data is not reported. This must change. We all know that if there had not been a video shot of George Floyd’s arrest his death would have gone unnoticed.
But now is a time for mourning, for expressing our grief and humanity. People are hurting and have been hurting for far too long. Yet, no one’s been listening. We have been pretending that we have been making progress in our country while people have been dying in the dark. We owe them, ourselves and our families better.
To those who have lost faith that we can do better, the weight of centuries of evidence and experience is on your side. It is difficult to argue with experience.
Can we begin to right the inequities that have weighed down our country for generations? We have no choice but to try. We must try our hearts out, try until we burst, beyond the limits of our endurance. The wounds are too deep. It is our only chance. To cry for George Floyd and his family and to hope for an opportunity to do better.