A pandemic of racism continues unabated

By Arlene Violet
Posted 6/11/20

“I CAN’T BREATHE” – Eric Garner. Mr. Garner‘s life was choked out of him by police for his allegedly selling individual cigarettes. The list is a long one of such …

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A pandemic of racism continues unabated


“I CAN’T BREATHE” – Eric Garner.
Mr. Garner‘s life was choked out of him by police for his allegedly selling individual cigarettes.

The list is a long one of such useless deaths:

The Men:

John Crawford III
Michael Brown
Ezell Ford
Dante Parker
George Mann
Freddie Gray
Philando Castile
Alton Sterling
Delrawn Small….plus dozens more of black men as well, even eliminating those who died in custody.

And then there is the list of the women:

Breonna Taylor
Tanisha Anderson
Yvette Smith
Natasha Mc Kenna
Bettie Jones
Atatiana Jefferson

All were killed by police officers. The most conservative estimate (because police departments are not required to report this data) is that black Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by police than white people.

There is another sad list as well, i.e. the black men who were killed by white men who usually get away with it.

The overwhelming number of these cases resulted in no punishment for the perpetrator. In fact, the third degree murder charge against Officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd is not only an undercharge but also raises a technical issue. It requires an inadvertent act for conviction. It is doubtful that anyone could think that somebody who has his knee on a victim’s neck for over 8 minutes while the victim repeatedly says he cannot breathe and for at least 2 minutes after the victim lays limp, killed him inadvertently. The charge could then be dismissed or the officer found not guilty because his action was intentional and should have been at least a second degree charge. Fortunately, on June 3 the Minnesota Attorney General who took over the case updated the charge to second degree and filed aiding and abetting murder against the three other police officers.
So, “I can’t breathe” has now been uttered by another black man. In actuality, it is all of us who should not and cannot breathe in peace until the slaying of black citizens is stopped. An outrageous case keeps our attention for a while and then disappears.

As a former Attorney General I know full well the professionalism and integrity of many police officers with whom I was privileged to work. Nonetheless, there is a rogue element. The fact that 3 police officers stood by as Mr. Floyd pled for his life rather than intervene is ample testimony to the “blue code” of silence. Regrettably, innocent police members in other states were hurt during riots which were precipitated by Officer Chauvin’s taking of a life.

Racism is a pandemic in its own right. Self-examination is the antidote for this illness. Prosecutors and juries are letting white perpetrators get away with murder. A president derides protestors as thugs and encouraged shooting at them while earlier in his presidency he expressed admiration for the menacing white men both in their supremacy marches and recently in their flaunting of pandemic related safeguards of public health.

The snuff out film we just saw and its aftermath should awaken all of us to this reality of a systemic failure of justice.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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