Think & Create #2 | What does Racism and Justice look like in the 21st century?

Black lives matter.

Justice for George Floyd.

This week of all weeks, it would be a disservice to not acknowledge what is unfolding right in-front of us. The recent police brutality case of George Floyd, has touched a nerve across the globe and demonstrations in cities everywhere have grown to a roar. The killing of George Floyd is one of many sickening events that have accumulated over the past few weeks.

Institutional Racism.


Regularity seems to usually point to something systemic and institutional. I believe the fact that African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated and incidences of police harassment and brutality is due to something bigger than a series of isolated incidents. Many still live with the consequences of America’s original sin: slavery and racism. It has been institutionalized over generations in the criminal justice system, the economy, the health care system, and the education system. While we like to think it is foreign to us, as Prime Minister Trudeau said today, Canada itself suffers from systemic racism and must learn to do better.

Here is an article about Canada’s faults today: https://theconversation.com/dear-white-people-wake-up-canada-is-racist-83124

Why does it look this Way?

America’s institutions including policing, healthcare, school and government were all born in a racialize and segregated environment and have yet to escape those roots. Because of its relevance let’s analyze the history of policing in America. The origins of police forces in America were a majority white, male focused on responding to ‘disorder’ than crime. Gary Potter says, “these police officers were focused on controlling a “dangerous underclass” African Americans, immigrants and the poor”. Through the early 20th century, there was a low bar for hiring and training officers. Despite the police force coming along way, recent events have reminded us we are still not there. There are identifiable problematic similarities from then until now (e.g. diversity, profiling, brutality, punishment, and training.) The reason we still have similar problems is because it is not confronted properly. Similar culture and systems will continue, if not confronted and reformed properly.

Here is an article about the police forces history: https://time.com/4779112/police-history-origins/ 

Evidence.

Here’s the evidence. George Floyd’s death is a pressing example of how the system is failing. The police officer who took his life was poorly trained and had a culture of misconduct. Derek Chauvin had 18 total complaints filed; The officer who arrived on the scene had 6 past complaints filed. Before Floyd’s tragic death they had faced little repercussion. The system gives no encouragement to act otherwise, and that is institutionalized. Barack Obama called it “tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal.’”. This is evident in the death of David Cornelius Smith, a precursor of the Floyd case. In 2010, David Cornelius Smith was held down with a knee on his neck for 4 minutes by a Minneapolis police officer. He ended up dying – in return the officers were never disciplined. “I can’t breathe” is not a newly coined phrase – we have heard it before.

Here is an article on the police officers past: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/01/us/derek-chauvin-what-we-know-trnd/index.html

What needs to change.

A knowledgeable and outspoken classmate said “you can’t fix a flawed system without tearing it down and rebuilding it”. This is a fact – institutional racism from centuries ago has tried to revise and reform, yet the culture has not altogether changed. Sadly, the reality is that it isn’t feasible to completely tear down these institutions. I believe the appropriate response is to take serious measures. Firstly, we need to buckle down on punishment and repercussions for misconduct. Derek Chauvin had 18 total complaints filed against him, it seems he had minimal reform, and by that point he should have already been removed. I believe, when you are not strict, you encourage events like this. Secondly, I believe we need more civilian oversight. Police officers should not be overseeing other police officers. In a podcast with ‘The Daily’, Shaila Dewan spoke about: efforts to hold problem officers accountable often face resistance from unions, and juries are reluctant to second-guess police decisions. Lastly, I believe a massive recall on training is in order. Before all these events came to light I was privileged enough to assume that the training was adequate. These recent events and all ones before it, say glaringly otherwise. 

Here’s a short podcast I enjoyed about the systems that protect police: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-daily/id1200361736?i=1000476523659

Fight the power. 

“Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” – Will Smith 

Activists are fighting the same battle from years ago, but with certainly different tools. This week, I was especially moved by the amount of solidarity, interest, communication, support, and respect on my feed. This is where my artifact comes in… I wanted to make a visual that would encapsulate the power and movement that social media has presented. Yes, at times there is fallout and senseless garbage. Yet, for the most part social media has consequently created a platform for like minded individuals to share, learn, and experience. This artifact demonstrates how the ability to share, learn, and experience on social media has greatly influenced this event and movement on a global scale to take place.

Here is a super interesting post that relates to this, by one of my classmates Daniel Wickstone: http://www.blog44.ca/danielw/2020/05/25/same-old-america/ 

Cause, Consequence, and Conclusion.

“Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible-Even if you’re choking on it-Until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

This battle for justice has been around as long as time itself, but one person, one event, has once again reopened the eyes of a nation to a matter right under their noses. The video of George Floyd’s murder has consequently created a demand for real change. This event has tipped the balance and caused rightful unrest. The agent of change will prove to be the will of people, combined, with the power of social media and technology. I believe this protest will influence a greater understanding of racism and privilege, and will create major change from all levels of society.

Here are two more great podcasts that I enjoyed if you would like to further your learning on these current events:

https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/revisionist-history/id1119389968?i=1000476517088 

https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-flames-spread-protests-in-america/id151230264?i=1000476412679 

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