Days of rage and anguish
“For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly and destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions, indifference and inaction and slow decay.” – Robert F. Kennedy
Diana Washington Valdez/June 2020
|George Floyd tribute in Minnesota/Wikimedia|
Floyd’s death led to extensive protests across the United States. In solidarity, people in other countries also protested what was an apparent act of police brutality. Protests, some which turned violent and included looting, vandalism, and attacks on police, raged on for days in Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, and other cities. In the absence of a national call for peace and healing, police in some cities took unprecedented actions: “taking a knee” (a symbol of solidarity) in front of protesters, hugging protesters, and joining protestors in one peaceful march. In El Paso, hundreds of people took part in a mostly peaceful protest against Floyd’s death.
A police officer, armed with a gun and a badge, can do great harm if he or she also harbors fear. If he or she begins to view citizens as enemy combatants instead of as members of a community that they are sworn to protect. Anti-media bias - fomented by politicians that characterize media outlets as fake news machines – became another source of concern for potential abuse. On May 29, police in Louisville, Kentucky, allegedly fired at a news crew that was covering a protest against the March 13 shooting death of Breonna Taylor, the innocent victim of an apparent police screwup. Why did police fire pepper bullets at the reporters? What threat did the white female reporter and her photographer pose? “Deadline” reported that the crew had obeyed the police restrictions; the incident remains under investigation .
Citing a study by academics at three universities, Vox.com reported that “black men, by far the most at-risk group, face 1 in 1,000 odds of being killed by the police over the course of their lives” . The study, “Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex,” also found that “Black women and men and American Indian and Alaska Native women and men are significantly more likely than white women and men to be killed by police. Latino men are also more likely to be killed by police than are white men.” 
Figures compiled by Mapping Police Violence indicate that 1,095 people on average were killed each year from 2013 to 2019 . The average implies that killings by police are a fact of life in the United States. People took to the streets not only to protest the outrageousness of Floyd’s death, but also to respond to the impotence they feel when confronted with injustices on the part of powerful institutions. Why do people protest against perceived potential injustices? Rayven Koha-Jallah, 19, who participated in a protest in St. Paul, Minnesota, told CNN, "We're tired of being scared” . The fear of becoming the next victim is part of what motivates people to push back, even if they believe that they themselves are powerless.
Was the police officer linked to Floyd’s homicide a racist? We don’t know. However, we do know that an irrational fear of others lies at the root of racism. In recent years, the nation witnessed a rise in citizen complaints to police involving blacks, Latinos, and other minorities. They were singled out because they “looked” suspicious to whites due to the color of their skin or other ethnic traits. Americans with Asian backgrounds have become the latest victims of physical and verbal attacks after being tied unfairly to Covid-19, which may have originated in Wuhan, China.
The Covid-19 crisis, with its still evolving economic fallout, may trigger the next set of massive protests in the near future. When hunger begins to set in, how will governments respond when the hungry – mostly minorities at first - take to the streets? Will they require police to fire at people stealing groceries? Will they send military tanks to quell those riots?
Diana Washington-Valdez is an award-winning international author and journalist based in Texas.
  “Night of protests turn violent hours after George Floyd's death ruled a homicide,” CNN, June 2.
 “Louisville TV Reporter Shot By Police During Live Broadcast Covering Street Protests, SAG-AFTRA Condemns “Brazen Attack” – Update,” May 30, 2020.
 “Violent protests are not the story. Police violence is,” Vox.com, May 30, 2020.
 Study published online at PNAS.org, Aug. 5, 2019.
 “The anger behind the protests, explained in 4 charts,” Vox.com, updated, June 1, 2020.