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Putting an end to systemic racism

“Racism can only end if we contend with the policies and institutional barriers that perpetuate and preserve the inequality—economic and social— that we still see all around us. With renewed vigor, we call on members of the Body of Christ to join others in advocating and promoting policies at all levels that will combat racism and its effects in our civic and social institutions.”

That statement came from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who were addressing systemic racism. Their statement had nothing to do with the police brutality carried out last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota where a white law enforcement officer was shown in a cellphone video with his knee across the neck of a black man. The latter died, leading to outage, protests and violent riots. That statement was made in November of 2018.

We need not to focus our attention on those who chose to take part in the violent aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. While some may say that type of action is needed in order for the “unheard to be heard”, to me it only further exacerbates the situation. Those riots left neighborhoods in ruin, to include retail shops and food establishments. That directly impacts those living in those neighborhoods. Where are they to go to obtain the items needed for day-to-day survival, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic?

We need to keep our hearts and minds focused on the root of the evil that prompted the events to unfold on May 24 in Minneapolis.

Media reports show that Minnesota Police Officer Derek Chauvin, the man whose knee was on Floyd’s neck, had 18 conduct complaints lodged against him over his 19-year career. He was reprimanded on two of those occasions. There was no mention in those reports of the nature of the complaints or who filed them.

Does that make Chauvin a racist?

Maya Santamaria, former owner of El Nuevo Rodeo, said that both Floyd and Chauvin worked security at the club. She said that the two could have crossed paths, though Chauvin mostly worked outside as an off-duty officer, while Floyd primarily was inside as a bouncer.

Does that make Chauvin a racist?

On May 24 while answering a call regarding a person allegedly using a counterfeit bill to purchase cigarettes, Chauvin detained Floyd by using his knee across the suspect’s neck. That went on for over eight minutes. That went on despite Floyd begging for his life…saying he couldn’t breathe. That went on despite a plea from another officer to permit Floyd the opportunity to roll on his side. That went on for over two minutes after Mr. Floyd stopped talking and was motionless. That went on despite the fact that particular method of detainment is unheard of in any type of law enforcement training.

Does that make Chauvin a racist?

I can’t speak to what’s in his heart, but I’m hopeful that justice will be served and he’ll spend time in prison for his actions.

Racism occurs when an individual – either consciously or unconsciously – believes that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior. Therefore, that leads them to judge individuals of other races or ethnicities as inferior and unworthy of equal regard.

Systemic racism occurs when an entire social class of people are treated differently than another social class. When black students are given longer suspensions than whites for the same infraction, that’s systemic racism.

When a property owner excludes a person or family of color from renting or purchasing a home, that’s systemic racism.

When a black man is gunned down while jogging down a street, but a shirtless white man is totally ignored while running with a wide screen TV in his hands, that’s systemic racism.

When a business owner chooses to hire a white applicant over a black, even though the latter has more experience and is better qualified, that’s systemic racism. The same applies if a white employee is paid more than a person of color and they both perform identical duties.

And when a white police officer uses different methods/tactics to detain or arrest a person of color, that’s systemic racism.

It’s no wonder that people of color feel as though they are second-class citizens. What unfolded on Memorial Day in Minneapolis further perpetuates a social injustice that has been ignored for decades on end.

When we all decide to live by the word of God…“red or yellow, black or white; we are precious in His sight”….and end our homogeneous lifestyles, we’ll stop systemic racism in its tracks and come to realize the human dignity of all people.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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