Archive / The Highlander

One year ago on May 25, George Floyd was killed in cold blood by former police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd’s death provoked outrage, and people took to the streets to protest the latest in many deaths. The senseless killings of other Black people, such as Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and numerous others, came to light as well thanks to the wave of activism spawned by Floyd’s murder. However, it’s a year after these events, and little has changed. Though Chauvin has been convicted, the nation still has far to go in its journey toward ending police brutality and offering a safer environment for its marginalized communities.

Society has lost its momentum in pushing for justice. For as powerful of a tool as social media is, it has unfortunately enabled performative activism. Years and years of strife and conflict cannot be summed up in a digestible pastel pink Instagram post. Even after the Chauvin case ended, social media was still shedding light on multiple murders that kept occurring, like that of Daunte Wright, but raising awareness has not been nearly enough. There is not anywhere near the amount of activism and urgency of that which happened last summer, and therefore, there is not nearly enough of a push to earn justice and make a radical change.

The Biden administration suggested that it would attempt to solve police brutality with the establishment of a national police oversight commission within its first 100 days. However, no such commission has been established. Though lawmakers are hopeful that they can get it to pass, it should come as no surprise if it unfortunately doesn’t. Even with a Democrat majority in the House, the Republicans will likely throw a tantrum and do anything to keep it from passing. Therefore, the Biden administration simply must stop wasting time trying to reach across the aisle on this issue. Biden has shown that he has the power to make plenty of change very quickly, especially with his executive orders at the start of his presidency. He has the power to implement mass reform, if only he gets over the fear of stepping on Republicans.

Some may try to cite the surge in gun violence as a reason to not actively defund the police. However, given the continued deaths of Black people at the hands of police officers, police reform is absolutely necessary. Of course, it’s not as simple as pulling funding from police departments. There must be great consideration put into how we should restructure the police. If this complex issue receives the attention it deserves. Such care will be worth it, as it will result in a safer overall system that better takes care of people of color and mental health crises. The current police system is steeped in years of systemic racism and does not offer the balance of protection and safety that a public protection branch should provide. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their communities instead of feeling anxious about a traffic stop or doing everyday activities because of the gross power that the police wield. No matter the controversy, the police force of America needs serious, well-thought-out reform. For instance, applicants for the police force should have their backgrounds heavily reviewed, and should go through a much longer training process. The use of military-grade weapons by police forces could be diminished, and responses to mental health crises could be allotted to committees trained to respond to such situations. 

It is not simply the increase in actual activism and the reform of police that is needed to create radical change in America; we need to start in the classrooms of the nation as well. There is nothing wrong with introducing ethnic studies to students at a young age. There needs to be more honesty in how we teach history to children; we can teach about Martin Luther King Jr. and slavery all day, but the fact that important events such as the Tulsa race riot and the true severity of Jim Crow laws are not even touched on in classrooms is a crime. Children deserve to know the truth of our history; teaching them about the racial issues in America and the atrocities that it has created may help create less prejudiced generations who are more motivated to end the systemic issues in the United States.

A year after George Floyd’s death, not much in the grand scheme of things has changed. This does not mean, however, that we should ignore some of the changes that have started to take root. The Chauvin case was a turning point in showing police officers that they will be held accountable for their misdeeds. More Black people are being shown in mainstream media than ever before, and their stories are being shared. The nation has seen that it can demand justice and have it be delivered; this is a turning point for our voices in demanding action. People have a new awareness of social justice, and although it may not be trendy anymore, there are still people speaking up and making sure their voices are heard. The George Floyd case has opened up doors for the killers of other Black people, like Breonna Taylor, to be put on trial and given the punishments they deserve. There have been changes, and positive ones at that; there simply needs to be a more radical change.

America is still on a very long journey toward solving its police brutality and systemic problems. The people need to demand more of the government to ensure that victims of police brutality receive justice, and the government needs to stop sidestepping these crucial issues and instead seize the bull by the horns. We will not see radical change if we ourselves do not change radically in how we tackle these systemic problems. We must keep up the momentum of this movement and fight for justice for those who are no longer with us. We must ensure that our future generations have the safety everyone is entitled to.

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