From Garner to Floyd, racist killings choke off American society
Updated 15:37, 31-May-2020

American people who cannot breathe is seemingly not only George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who died after the police pinned him to ground. The rage and anger are uprisings across the U.S. with people never forget the death of Eric Garner in 2014, the Ferguson riots, the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, and the African American woman Breonna Taylor's death at her home just happened this year. 

The last word of George Floyd is surrealistically similar to the shouting of Eric Garner before death on Staten Island after a banned chokehold arrest in 2014: "I can't breathe." 

Some chronic diseases return as the U.S. society is facing severe challenges from the public health side and political debates. It just takes one night to draw the public unrest when racist killings stage a comeback. 

Inevitable consequences are out there through years of killings of colored American residents. 

Derek Chauvin is seen pinning George Floyd down using his knee for several minutes. /CGTN screenshot

Derek Chauvin is seen pinning George Floyd down using his knee for several minutes. /CGTN screenshot

Black lives matter

On July 17, 2014, NYC police officer Daniel Pantaleo had approached Eric Garner for peddling loose cigarettes, a violation of the city's administrative code. The encounter then escalated into an argument before Pantaleo began trying to restrain Garner. In a following banned chokehold arrest, the police's arm was spotted around Garner's neck, killing the unarmed black man. A New York grand jury voted against indicting Pantaleo that year. The killing, which was recorded by cellphones, fueled the burgeoning "Black Lives Matter" movement across the U.S.

A month later, on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old African American man, was fatally shot by 28-year-old white police officer Darren Wilson in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis after being grabbed by the neck through his car window and threatened. The unrest then reached a breaking point when on November 24, 2014, the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson on any criminal charges. The death of the black teenager in Missouri again ignited further tension over the country to rally for justice for black residents in the U.S.

Other high-profile police killings in cities, including Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis, Oakland, etc. set off a wave of nationwide protests in 2014 and 2015.

"I regret that I trusted the United States Department of Justice," said then New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio after Garner's death investigation. "I grew up watching the Department of Justice act as the protector of civil rights and civil liberties, and taking on racist policies, taking on state governments and local governments that were treating people unfairly." 

The death of Eric Garner fuels the burgeoning "Black Lives Matter" movement across the U.S. /AP

The death of Eric Garner fuels the burgeoning "Black Lives Matter" movement across the U.S. /AP

'Systemic cycle of injustice'

In the years since U.S. President Trump's election, he has assembled a long list of comments on issues involving African Americans, Mexicans, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews, general immigrants, and even people with disabilities. From his calling for black people death penalty to the recent "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" comment, the "systemic cycle of injustice" issues just lead the racial bias to another level in the U.S.

In August 2019, a man armed with a rifle opened fire at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, killing 20 people and wounding 26 others, just six days after a teenage gunman killed three people at a summer food festival in Northern California. According to the U.S. Justice Department file, the crimes were motivated by hatred of a particular group of people. 

Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old white murder, posted a document online that said: "This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." White supremacist views had reached a climax in many states then, after the election of Donald Trump, who based much of his 2016 campaign on building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Breonna Taylor poses during a graduation ceremony in Louisville, Kentucky. /AFP

Breonna Taylor poses during a graduation ceremony in Louisville, Kentucky. /AFP

Earlier this year, a young black emergency medical worker, Breonna Taylor, was fatally shot eight times in her home by police serving a narcotics search warrant in Louisville, Kentucky. According to a local report, the warrant to search Taylor's home on March 13 was in connection with a suspect who did not live there, and police found no drugs at Taylor's home after using a "no-knock" search warrant, which allows them to enter without first announcing their presence. No drugs were found, but the young, black, and unarmed woman died.

We say justice is not blind. However, the racial bias is dragging the U.S. society into a torn and hurt atmosphere by taking away unarmed lives amid the COVID-19 crisis hitting the already weak communities.

Like Biden said in a brief address concerning Floyd's death, "We (the U.S.) are a country with an open wound. None of us can turn away."

Social context of minority victims

The data collected by the Washington Post showed that blacks were the victims of the lethal use of force by police at nearly twice their rate in the general population in the U.S. from 2015 to 2019.

Admittedly, policing does not occur in an objective social vacuum. They encounter various urgent contexts when they enforce laws. Inappropriate arrests and confronting always happen in a certain social context. Yet why the communities of color are always the target? 

No killing is objective. 

All the other social contexts, including neighborhood segregation, socioeconomic status, school resource inequality, white supremacy, "color-blind" racism policy apathy, voter suppression, labor force discrimination, etc., worsen the post-racial situation among the Trump administration. Racism issue is entangled with these historical problems in the U.S. communities along with jurisdiction loopholes, COVID-19 pandemic attack, U.S. domestic economic downturn, and 2020 election: a deepening division is irreversibly happening, under the irrelevant exposure by the pandemic.

It is the violence that leads to people being hurt. With hurt and broken society, killings could never help fix the crack and gain the political rise. During the time of unrest, the human rights of the minority communities even matter more. 

Read more: 

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(With inputs from agencies)