As the leader of the Minnesota Humanities Center, envisioning a just society that is connected, curious, and compassionate, we send our condolences to the family of George Floyd and his many friends.
The tragic history of our country is replete with instances of the suppression of the inalienable human rights of African American individuals. Equally tragic has been our collective inability to face the problem of racism, as we know that no problem can be addressed until it is faced.
Almost 100 years to the day in Minnesota, three young men were dragged into the street and lynched in front of a mob in Duluth on the suspicion of committing a crime. No due process was afforded Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie as their lives were not seen as being deserving of equal protection under the law.
This week, videos captured the horrific event in which a Minneapolis police officer used his knee to apply pressure to the neck of George Floyd for several minutes until his body stopped moving. Mr. Floyd would be pronounced dead shortly afterward never regaining consciousness. Even more distressing to the beloved community was the failure of the four police officers to hear the pleas of Mr. Floyd to stop after he repeatedly told them that he could not breathe.
Mr. Floyd’s death prompted a throng of Minnesotans on Tuesday night to peacefully march through the streets of Minneapolis calling for justice. Many of us in the crowd appreciated the initial actions taken by local political and police officials to terminate the employment of the police officers.
All of us understand that if the rule of law is to be meaningful, no one can stand above the law, especially those individuals who hold positions of trust such as police officers. We must therefore continue to exercise our civic duty to remain vigilant to the process to ensure that justice occurs.
While the legal process moves forward in the Floyd case, we also need to confront the problem of racism in the United States. If we sincerely wish to create a great democracy, we must honestly examine our past, confront the problems before us, and boldly declare and take action to create a new reality that is truly inclusive for all.
The work of creating a just society for all does not happen by accident. The work of a just society requires all of us to play our part in advancing the cause of justice.
We will continue to convene people and organizations to honestly examine the entire and complete history of race in our country.
We will continue to strive toward connecting people so that we see and understand how all of our lives are intertwined in mutual destiny.
We will continue to work toward being a catalyst for bringing about a more perfect union and positive change in our society.
Then we will double our effort.
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By: Christopher P. Lehman
Christopher P. Lehman is a Professor of Ethnic Studies at St. Cloud State University.