The following are some factors that are contributing to the uprising we are seeing across the country, beginning with the specific and moving to the more general and systemic:
1. Any non-police officer would have been arrested for probable cause immediately after authorities saw the tape of the murder of George Floyd.
2. Minneapolis police contributed to the escalation of violence by using tear gas and excessive force during the first day of protests that were mainly peaceful.
3. The County Attorney in Minneapolis made a statement in a press conference on Thursday that “there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge.” This was like throwing gasoline on a fire after the whole world watched George Floyd be murdered right before their eyes.
4. President Trump called the persons protesting George Floyd’s death “THUGS” and repeated and glorified the violent rhetoric of an extremely racist 1960s Miami police chief, tweeting “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” thus pouring more gasoline on the fire of unrest.
5. As a country we had just witnessed the fact that the only reason arrests were made in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery is because the video of his killing was made public – a video that local authorities had in their possession for two months before it became public.
6. The crimes we see against persons of color by police are just the tip of the iceberg. They have been occurring throughout our country’s entire history, and we are only seeing it more clearly now because of cellphones, but it has always been there terrorizing persons of color.
7. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that has made it as clear as ever that there are gross inequities and injustices in our society as persons of color experience illness, death, and other negative consequences of the pandemic at a much higher rate.
8. We have never come to terms with the fact that our country was built on genocide, slavery, centuries of racism, and racist terrorism; with systemic racism permeating almost every aspect of our society to this day.
9. When there is no justice, we cannot expect for there to be peace. For centuries, we have prioritized order over justice to protect the status quo of white privilege and white supremacy. When the voice of the oppressed is ignored and the vulnerable are marginalized, we cannot expect the social fabric to hold together.
10. We have the worst leader at one of the most difficult and challenging times in our history. He has spent his whole presidency dividing us against one another, enacting racist and xenophobic policies, separating families of color, putting children in cages, turning away refugees, and scapegoating others rather than working to bring us together as a community. We cannot be surprised that these deep divisions and injustices are manifesting themselves in violent ways.
The only way out of our quagmire is to address the systemic injustice and racism that continue to oppress persons of color in our society. It is the only way to a peaceful future with justice – the only way.
Thank you, Mark, for your clarity of mind and heart. As an old man of 72, I can say that I have never seen such dire days. Even after the assassinations of Martin and Bobby in 1968, there were leaders of great integrity who opened possibilities and paths of resistance. All of us today must pray, reflect, act and lead with courage to get through these times.