The killing of George Floyd on May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer was such clear evidence of the mistreatment of Black people by law enforcement that it sent shock waves of outrage across the United States and around the world. Millions flooded the streets to demand justice for Floyd, as well as significant, systemic changes in the way Black people in the U.S. are treated, particularly in relation to law enforcement, where the disproportionate use of unnecessary force has resulted in far too many deaths. People all across the country are demanding that policies and procedures must be quickly implemented to ensure the equal, safe treatment of every citizen.
As someone who grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where untold numbers of brutal killings have taken place for decades at the hands of ruthless people, watching the video of George Floyd’s death was very painful for me. Watching a hopeless, helpless man on the ground, in agony and begging in vain for his life, made me question the role police officers play within Black communities in the United States. I cannot easily forget seeing the officer squeezing Floyd’s neck against the ground, assisted by other officers, while bystanders who were witnessing the death implored the officers to have mercy, and even videotaped the murder. Nothing awakened the consciences of the officers. As a Black man who is raising a son in this country, I have not been able to explain to him how this killing could have happened, let alone describe the big picture of racism in the United States.
When a human life is lost at the hands of ruthless and merciless people, the anguish and grief afflicted upon the victim’s loved ones leaves painful memories that live with them forever, and spurs endless questions about why some people behave in such evil ways toward their fellow humans. On October 4, 2011, I lost my cousin, whom I loved very much, after he was murdered at the hands of Mai Mai militia in South Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo. My cousin was killed along with seven other innocent humanitarian workers. They were tortured and brutally killed and abandoned on the street. I imagine the last minutes of their lives – and their pleas for mercy that were ignored as they took their last breaths.
The millions who have taken to the streets in almost every city of the United States, as well as around the world, even in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, desperately want American leaders to reform the current law enforcement system so that it will finally ensure the safety of all, without discrimination by color or race. Change is desperately needed.
Immigrants, who have moved to the United States after escaping death and persecution in their home countries, are accustomed to holding America up as an example of high standards of justice and democracy. They are finding it hard to try to explain to their kids that here in the United States they can also experience the violence they were escaping.
My prayer is that this country that I love very much will be united, and the roots of division and conflict will no longer find fertile soil. Evil flourishes whenever it is not pointed out, and it is time to face the evil of racism and defeat it.