The system must change, we must change


The Crusader Staff

A chalk Black Lives Matter drawing in a driveway in the Ingleside neighborhood near Riordan.

Jamar Kittling '20, News Editor

One month ago today, on May 25, police officers in Minneapolis responded to a call in which a store employee said that a drunken African American man paid using a counterfeit $20 bill. 

After being handcuffed, restrained, and ordered into a patrol car by police officers, as seen on widely publicized videos, Derek Chauvin, one of the four officers present, pulled George Floyd onto the street and placed his knee on his neck while other officers held down his torso and legs respectively. 

Despite Floyd being in distress, later losing consciousness, other officers calling for emergency medical help, and the repetitive pleas of bystanders, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for a full eight minutes and 46 seconds. 

Floyd was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, with an independent autopsy by Floyd’s family determining the cause of death to be mechanical asphyxiation, or restricted oxygen and blood flow to the brain. 

I cannot know what was going through Derek Chauvin’s head, or the rest of the officers’ heads, during those unjustifiable eight minutes and 46 seconds. I cannot definitively prove that it was racism, rage, or fear. However, I do know that this resembles a pattern that has permeated the fabric of this nation since before its foundation, and that is all too common. 

This incident immediately reminded me of the eerily similar killing of Eric Garner. On July 17, 2014 on Staten Island, New York, Garner was harassed by police and accused of selling loosies, or loose cigarettes. When he resisted, Officer Daniel Pantaleo executed an illegal chokeholding move on Garner, tackling him to the ground and pinning him, despite his several pleas that he could not breathe. After several minutes lying unconscious on the ground, and receiving minimal medical assistance even after an ambulance arrived, Garner was pronounced dead by a nearby hospital. 

Much more recently was the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, where a white father and son chased Arbery down while he was jogging, believing he was the perpetrator of multiple break-ins in the area. The two attempted a “citizen’s arrest,” but ended up shooting Arbery in what many have likened to a lynching. 

These incidents are far from being singular. According to, between 2017 and 2020, 22 percent of the people shot fatally by cops in the United States were black, despite black people only composing 13.4 percent of the United States population as estimated by the census bureau. Meanwhile, 40.9 percent of the victims of police shootings were white, while nonhispanic white people compose 60.4 percent of the United States population. These figures do not even take into account those who died in police custody because of negligence, which includes George Floyd, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray among others. 

What manifests as the pattern in this nation is black men getting unjustly killed by police officers, all the while in the absence of justice. Many attribute this discrepancy to the long established implicit and systematic racism that permeates this nation. 

Several opponents, however, deny that race is even a relevant factor. Counter movements such as All Lives Matter and the current presidency seem to dismiss the protests that are advocating for institutional change and racial equality as chasing an already established goal. 

Yet, when I look back on the United States of America, I see a nation founded on the cruxes of oppression and dehumanization. This nation shipped millions of Africans into a life of slavery, using money as a motivation and racial superiority as an excuse. This nation fractured over this peculiar institution, one in which 11 states seceded to protect their “sovereign right” for what they called their property. 

This is a nation that gave up on reform, and continued to allow the South to implement policies to keep blacks poor, disenfranchised, and second class that would endure for nearly a century. This is a nation that allowed these injustices to continue after the horrors of the First and Second World War, where blacks in the military still faced segregation and discrimination. This is a nation whose citizens had to endure fire hoses, police dogs, violent attacks, and death threats for peacefully protesting in the name of their humanity and equality.
By the time of the Civil Rights Movement, racism had already taken hold of the national psyche and the system. Redlining and whiteflight has resulted in impoverished black neighborhoods and affluent white suburbs, robbing many black families of adequate housing, education,  jobs, and monetary resources for generations. 

As these two separate worlds developed, implicit biases began to arise. The doll tests performed in the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. The Board of Education demonstrated that the view of racial inferiority has manifested in black children because of segregation. Somehow, talking, dressing, or acting “ghetto,” which is the vernacular and culture of many black neighborhoods, is an implicit indicator of intelligence and delinquency. 

I cannot believe that this ingrained racist sentiment that has endured on this continent since the 17th Century vanished without a trace. Today, as the decision to remove the battle flag and statues used to represent the rebellion against the United States and an entire people’s humanity itself is somehow a controversial action, as a man can be the target of  hate and lose his job for kneeling during the national anthem as a means of peaceful protest, when a black man can be killed by a police officer for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill, I believe it to be downright criminal, if not ignorant, to assert that racism in all of its manifestations is not an issue today. 

Black Lives Matter is not only a political movement. It is not a call for vandalization, looting, divisiveness, or violence. It is a testament for every black person who was opposed, viewed as less than, and had their lives taken all because of the color of their skin. It is a statement against the racism that has saturated the core of this nation for far too long. It is a rallying cry against a system that will allow someone who is supposed to be an agent of law, order, and peace, to ignore the humanity of a fellow man and cause his death.

Once again, I cannot fathom what went through Derek Chauvin’s mind for those eight minutes and 46 seconds, as he ignored the calls of Floyd, the crowd, those in the ambulance behind him, and even some of his fellow officers. However, I know that what happened to George Floyd echoes the systemic manifestations of oppression that have existed for centuries. Yes, I am aware that All Lives Matter, but I will not support a movement that seeks for these obvious and extant issues of race relations to be swept under the rug.

As a promoter of equality, I stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. I believe I speak to all of those who have been hurt by this current system, and believe that Black Lives Matter when I say that it’s time for this system to change.