Citizens lose their lives as a result of police violence. This senseless cycle cannot be allowed to continue. Racism undermines the United States, and this point in time should be the starting point for its eradication.
A U.S. jury has found a former police officer guilty of various charges related to the killing of George Floyd, an African American.*
The officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. The video that emerged of Floyd gasping, “I can’t breathe,” spread on social media and led to a swell of protests around the world.
It has been nearly half a century since Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights. Although we have witnessed an age in which a Black person became president, there has been no end to the loss of Black lives due to the excessive actions of police officers.
While there are various contributing factors to the existence of racial disparity, such as the prevalence of firearms, it is an incontrovertible fact that the prejudice that views Black people as a menace to public order is indelibly ingrained in American police forces.
In the United States, more than 1,000 people a year lose their lives due to the use of force by police officers, with the number of Black victims more than twice the number of white victims. This is a horrifying reality.
Even so, it is rare for police officers to be held criminally responsible. Only 1% of the police officers who have killed citizens while on duty have been prosecuted for murder. Even fewer are convicted.
Many white people joined the protests that swept across the whole of the United States in the wake of Floyd’s death.
What has certainly driven change in society is the use of tragic experiences as a springboard for progress, which can be seen in the Joe Biden administration’s commitment to honoring diversity. It can be said that this turn of events has been typical of the United States.
There is now an opportunity to reexamine the activities of the police, although reform should stretch much further than the police force to include the justice system. The percentage of death sentences handed down after prosecution is disproportionately high for Black people. In Georgia, one study showed that the rate of Black people who kill white people and face the death penalty was 17 times higher than for white people who kill Black people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly damaged minority communities that face poor conditions in regard to medical care, employment and housing. Discrimination toward people of Asian descent has also intensified. Racism is by no means a thing of the past.
The Biden administration advocates overcoming division and respecting human rights, and has made the eradication of racism a priority. It is my hope that it does as it has promised and makes the idea of a fair and just society a reality.
These events have drawn attention in Japan also, where athletes who have foreign roots support the protests. Meanwhile, others insist that there is no racism to be found in Japan.
The racism embedded in society and the human spirit will not easily disappear, even without a legal system that affirms racism. With the number of our foreign-born neighbors increasing, these are issues that an ever-diversifying Japan cannot avoid. I hope we can see this as an opportunity to look earnestly at the issue of human rights.
*Editor’s note: On April 21, a jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.