Racism Is Systemic
Last updated 6/3/2020 at 3:24pm
The outrageous killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville are just two of the countless murders of black people by white law enforcement officers in American history. In this dreadful situation, we need to realize two things.
First, the murders of black people by police have nothing to do with what, if anything, the victim may have done. In these cases, Mr. Floyd may or may not have passed a counterfeit bill, and Ms. Taylor was asleep in her bed, a case of mistaken identity by the cops.
Second, while we know there are many fine law enforcement officers who do not murder people, these killings by police cannot be blamed simply on rogue cops or rotten apples.
The fact that police often kill black people is well-known among black Americans; it is a horror embedded in black communities. This same terrible fact is usually denied instinctively by white people who can’t bear to see ourselves in such a wretched light, so we blame the violence either on bad black people or bad cops.
But these murders do not reflect “bad people” – either black or white. Regardless of the behavior of individual police or their victims, the murder of black people by police is a grim reminder of the racism that is in the air we breathe, we who are Americans.
The murders reflect the pervasiveness of white supremacy in American history and the American psyche. White people, regardless of the quality of our lives, share the responsibility to undo racism. It is a deeply systemic problem, which can be solved only when we confess our collective guilt of having failed to see the problem and then redouble our commitment, in Christian language, to “go and sin no more.”
(Rev. Heyward is the chair of the Religious Affairs Committee of Transylvania County NAACP.)