Editorial: George Floyd case forces needed US reflection on racism

Mercury News & East Bay Times editorial boards, The Mercury News on

Published in Op Eds

As a nation, we must wake up to, speak out against and stop the racism that black Americans experience and fear every day.

We must acknowledge that more than six decades after the birth of the civil rights movement, we remain a grossly unequal society in which people of color -- especially black men -- face disparate treatment because of the pigment of their skin.

Disparate treatment most disturbingly from people in power: From the Minneapolis police officer who held his knee on George Floyd's neck for about eight minutes as he stopped breathing; the Georgia officials who ignored the fatal shooting of jogger Ahmaud Arbery; and the off-duty police officer who walked into the wrong Dallas apartment and murdered Botham Jean.

Those are just some in an endless list of cases that make many African Americans fear the people who are supposed to protect them, worry about walking down the street, agonize about the safety of their children and hesitate at reporting crime.

We must speak up against the racism and against the economic injustices that have historically made -- and continue today to make -- it impossible to truly equalize our society. We must speak up and speak out -- but we must do so peacefully.

Sadly, that's not what we've witnessed these past two nights. While most seek nonviolent tactics to make themselves heard, once again some are determined to wreak havoc on our cities.

The trashing of our communities solves nothing. It only makes the economic injustice worse for it damages the businesses that employ us and serve us all, and it drains the already-scarce public resources needed to help the neediest. The destruction is an indictment of wrong-minded protesters bent on violence and should not be taken as a reflection on those who gathered with legitimate cause.

The violence must be stopped. Ripping apart our society is not the solution for fixing it.


At the same time, there must be wide room for the peaceful voices of protest to be heard. And it's incumbent on all of us to listen to those voices. To acknowledge that we remain an economically divided nation -- and that it's only gotten worse in the past four years.

It's time for us to hear the pain and the feelings of helplessness -- surely exacerbated by weeks of quarantine as a pandemic ravages our nation and disproportionately attacks the very same minority communities that also experience the worst discrimination.

This is a time for America to search its national soul, to recognize the racism within and to work empathetically to correct it. We've ignored it for too long.

(c)2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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