Eight minutes and forty-six seconds – that’s how long Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd during an arrest over an alleged counterfeit $20 bill on the evening of May 25th, 2020.
The incident was captured on camera by bystanders on the street and saw Floyd repeatedly beg officers to let him go, crying out “I can’t breathe” as onlookers equally pleaded with officers to no avail – eerily reminiscent of the last words uttered by Eric Garner in the final moments of his life in 2014, when he was also choked to death by a police officer in New York for selling cigarettes on the street.
Eight minutes and forty-six seconds – that’s how long it took police to kill a man, and to spark a national revolt in the process. These incidents and countless others like them over centuries have led to a global outcry against racism and police brutality in the US, with protests even amidst the fear of COVID-19 not only taking place in every state in the American union, but states around the world.
Fighting back against the bigotry and systematic targeting of black and brown bodies since the very inception of the nation, citizens of all colours and backgrounds have taken to the streets, calling for not only the prosecution of police officers guilty of racialized violence, but a radical re-evaluation of not only policing but the nature of race in America today.
As curfews are being enacted and quarantines are defied in the name of equality and justice I spoke with Alexandra Wishart about the institutionalization of racism in the United States. Alex is a critical race scholar and one of the PhD students here at Carleton’s Department of Political Science. Her experience with the issues at play with racism in America come not only from a history of teaching American Politics at institutions like Georgia State University, but through many years as an activist in the American south where she spent most of her life.