The murder of George Floyd has propelled the largest sustained protest movement in the history of the United States. It was the final straw in bringing about widespread, focused, and multiracial opposition after years and years of endemic police brutality, systemic racism, and divisive politics. The sheer scale of it, and the rapid shift in public opinion, has created a sweeping demand for change in order to redress a history of inequality. The US elections in November are a chance to make that change happen and to remove the most racially divisive president in the last century from office.
In cities large and small, Americans have stood up and said enough is enough – the structure of systematic racism must be dismantled. The wave of public feeling has been so powerful that the outcry over George Floyd’s death and the unequal treatment of Black people has been felt across the world. Now, other countries are looking to the US for a response and I believe we are finally in a position to push for comprehensive and effective change.
“Black lives seem to matter less to the police, but they also seem to matter less to this president.”
According to a Civiqs poll cited by the Huffington Post, the support for the Black Lives Matter movement has increased nearly as much since George Floyd’s death as it had in the previous two years. 53 percent of Americans now support the Black Lives Matter movement. 57 percent of Americans now agree that police are more likely to use excessive force on Black people, compared to just 34 percent in 2016. At the same time, three in four Americans support a ban on police chokeholds and well over half of Americans support eliminating “qualified immunity,”a doctrine whereby officers are protected from being sued over misconduct in certain circumstances.
I do not believe it is an accident that this avalanche of support is happening at a time when we have the most racially divisive president in at least the last century. This is a president who said there were “very fine people on both sides” in the wake of the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally in 2017, who described African nations as “shithole countries,” who tear-gassed protestors for the sake of a photo op, and who has tormented and trivialised the push for equality. He is fuelling anger on the streets. Black lives seem to matter less to the police, but they also seem to matter less to this president.
“Right now, systematic racism is endemic to the American experience.”
In response, Congress must act, and their first port of call must be to address police brutality. The Justice in Policing Act of 2020, proposed by the Democrats, is an important start. It sets out common-sense tenets to protect citizens from police brutality and hold police accountable. But if we are really going to act on this shift in public sentiment, we cannot dust our hands clean with a few cosmetic laws related to police brutality. We have to ensure those laws are effective, far-reaching, and actionable, and we have to make sure that they act as a letter of intent for wider, systematic change.
Right now, systematic racism is endemic to the American experience. The typical white family has about ten times the wealth of the typical Black family. Black Americans are incarcerated at a rate of more than five times that of white Americans. Access to health care for Black Americans is invariably far more inadequate than it is for white Americans. And the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has shone an even harsher light on the product of those inequities.In the United States, black people and latinx people comprise over half the number of COVID-19 cases. Black people are also 1.7 times as likely as their white counterparts to suffer from diabetes and 1.4 times as likely to suffer from hypertension– two of the pre-existing conditions most closely associated with a greater risk of death from COVID-19. Systematic racism exists in so many facets of life for Black Americans that it is incumbent upon lawmakers to match the scope of the inequity with the scope of the solution.
“The differences between Trump and Biden on racial justice could not be clearer. That’s why November presents a pivotal opportunity.”
Public opinion is now here and, in November, we have the opportunity to ensure that the right politicians and lawmakers are elected to enact transformative change. We have the choice between an incumbent bent on division, and a candidate determined to resolve these historical inequities. Vice President Biden has proposed investing billions in housing to address the affordability crisis disproportionately hurting Black Americans. He has also proposed ending redlining– a practise by which banks and other institutions refuse to offer mortgages to customers in certain neighbourhoods based on their racial and ethnic composition – and other discriminatory and unfair practices in the housing market. Biden has committed to expanding access to health care and, when it comes to education, he plans to triple the funding that goes to schools with a high percentage of low-income students, as well as invest in the recruitment of teachers of colour. The differences between the candidates on racial justice could not be clearer. That’s why November presents a pivotal opportunity.
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