It is impossible not to be appalled watching the video of a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck as he gasps for his life and finally loses it. No one should ever be subject to such gratuitous violence.
As protests strengthen in the United States and around the world, our outrage is intensified by US authorities’ systemic deference to excessive police force against black people. Police in the US kill black people at twice the rate of white people – three times the rate when they are unarmed. Yet six years since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and so many others whose names and memories we must honor, policymakers have yet to end the routine impunity that enables such killing.
Meanwhile, officials in the US seem to prefer endless investment in law enforcement to address the entrenched racism that for generations has created dramatic racial disparities in health, housing, education, employment, and rates of arrest and criminal conviction. The coronavirus pandemic shines a spotlight on these disparities, with black people and other minorities disproportionately affected due to a constellation of factors that include the “comorbidities” of poverty, the reluctance of many people to seek timely health care because they aren’t sure how they will bear the cost, and a tattered social safety net that gives many low-income people no choice but to work in frontline jobs, despite the health risks involved. That such a wealthy nation treats its own people so callously fuels the fury over George Floyd’s death.
These issues are at the heart of Human Rights Watch’s work. We seek to end abusive police violence and to stop profound discrimination and brutality in policing. Along with our partners, we also work to change government programs, from education to health care, that deepen rather than remedy inequality and leave far too many people mired in destitution and despair.
George Floyd’s cruel and pointless death, and the litany of black lives that were lost before, reconfirms our commitment to combat these injustices. We stand as an organization and a community for a world where no one need fear the police because of the color of their skin, where the criminal justice system treats everyone fairly and equally, and where governments at all levels focus on helping the most vulnerable with educational, healthcare, and social programs to ensure each person a life of dignity with a fair chance to reach their potential