By Richard T. Smith, President, New Jersey State Conference NAACP
TRENTON — Just over a week ago, yet again, an all too familiar scene of abuse of power and blatant racism was captured on video as the world witnessed the savage killing of George Floyd.
For over eight minutes, Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of a handcuffed Mr. Floyd, ignoring pleas of bystanders to stop and check vital signs until Mr. Floyd went limp and remained in that position for several more minutes. These deplorable and unwarranted actions were witnessed by three other Minneapolis Police officers, whose decision to do nothing for the sake of humanity makes them complicit in the callous crime that’s been committed. Therefore, they too must be held criminally responsible for their inaction, and punished to the fullest extent of the law.
We will NOT rest until they are held accountable!
For black people, suffering at the hands of police is an undeserved expectation in our communities. Unfortunately, this nation is complicit with the demonization & criminalization for simply being black or suffering disproportionate punishment for being black, particularly in comparison to our white counterparts. For this reason, we make up 37% of America’s prison population, but only 13 percent of the total population.
Centuries of institutional racism has brought us to the point where a black man accused of forgery is murdered by a police officer for all to see. On the contrary, when white perpetrators actually commit murders, such as Dylann Roof taking the lives of nine black parishioners in Bible Study, he was arrested without any use of force or brutality. In fact, even as a murder suspect, Dylann Roof instead was afforded a meal from Burger King.
While this incident took place in Minnesota, we must acknowledge that these are NOT isolated incidents. Systemic racism throughout the continuum of the criminal justice system must be reformed locally and nationally.
The uprisings taking place in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Kentucky, Los Angeles and other locations across this country are a direct result of the anger, fear, sadness, and distrust that have festered for years throughout our community. Enough is enough. We Are Done Dying.
Right here in New Jersey, statistics show that police are still more likely to use force against black people and other minorities versus whites. Black people are more likely to be arrested, fined, and incarcerated at higher rates than their white counterparts who commit the same offenses.
Our communities are angry and saddened, but we must be strategic and measured as we battle this latest grave injustice. The NAACP will not rest until we see these officers charged and convicted for the murder of George Floyd. We must keep our focus on redressing the systemic racism against our community that led to this tragedy, and others. We’re in this fight, but we can’t afford to lose any more Black sons and daughters. We must protest peacefully, demand persistently, and fight politically. But most of all, we must vote in all elections!
My brothers and sisters, we have our work cut out for us, in our own backyard! The death of George Floyd must be a catalyst towards positive change. It is time for us to unite and put an end to police brutality and racism. The time is NOW!