A year after the murder of George Floyd, US citizens are still grappling with racist realities and how to move forward
Police brutality is epidemic across the US; most victims survive violent police encounters, but the media rarely cares to tell their stories, your Friday long read from The New York Magazine
We go to New York Magazine, for Friday’s long read by Zak Cheney-Rice. Read the whole article “His Name in Vain: One year later, America is struggling to reform and reimagine the agencies that have been licensed to kill us.” We include key excerpts below to convince you it’s worth your time.
The American law enforcement’s “appetite for death” is a crisis that has destroyed countless lives, especially those of poor, Black people
When [Meralyn] Kirkland answered the phone that day, she was put on hold. “Hello,” said the man who finally picked up. “This is Officer Turner. I’m calling to tell you that [her granddaughter] Kaia’s been arrested. She’s on her way to the juvenile center.”
Kirkland didn’t fully comprehend it at the time, but she and her granddaughter were in the introductory course of a sort of reeducation. She was an immigrant. Kaia was a child. Neither had interacted with the police in any meaningful way before that day. Neither had been given a concrete reason to be wary of law enforcement.
Kirkland could not have predicted that a similar civics lesson would grip the nation a few months later. Millions of Americans have spent the past year reassessing their relationship with their country through the prism of law enforcement, often inspired by teachers who did not set out to be teachers.
Last year’s fire, and the sense of catastrophe that fed it, was not isolated to that uniquely combustible moment — the pandemic that fueled it, the economic crisis that shaped it, the reviled president who oversaw it — but a constant state of emergency. In recent months, some officials have become more enthusiastic about denouncing death at the hands of law enforcement. We will be tempted, as time passes, to relent and embrace the seeming wisdom of reflexive moderation — even though the reforms they’ve offered will stop neither the killings nor the quieter forms of violence the police inflict.
“Police violence transcends so much more than killing,” Purnell says. “You know? It makes me so sad to know that George Floyd’s life still could have been ruined by this encounter over a $20 bill.”
For survivors, there is still incarceration, work lost, crushing financial commitments to courts and the state, families fractured.
The idea of abolition has caught on with a growing minority of Americans, and it became one of the proposals most associated with the past year’s outcry, because it promises what reform cannot: an actual end to police violence and a commitment to the investments — in education and health care and housing — that would, theoretically, supplant the supposed need for agents with guns roaming the streets.
Kirkland and Rolle looked on as lawmakers celebrated a chilling compromise: Except in the case of a “forcible felony,” it was now prohibited for police officers to arrest children under the age of 7. The sentiment that had clinched its unanimous passage — that what happened to Kaia was unacceptable — apparently did not extend past the second grade.
The bill is languishing on Governor DeSantis’s desk, still unsigned. Kaia has bad days and better days, grades that go up and down, periodic meltdowns, fits of anxiety. Her hope for recuperation bound up in the passage of time and a propagandistic cartoon cop rescuing a kitten from a tree.
Over the past year, we have seen death transmuted into rebellion, only to be sublimated into reforms that reproduce the same violence. The police have even dangled catharsis. In a Minneapolis courtroom last month, Derek Chauvin was convicted on the strength of his fellow officers’ testimony, an attempt to prove the value of the prisons they typically reserve for us. Before the verdict was even read, they started killing again.
Read the whole article here.
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