Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Police Department will undergo an investigation of any patterns and practices of abuse. Had we not scrapped President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Policy,
George Floyd might still be alive. Perhaps if Minneapolis had been subject to a pattern or practice of investigation for discriminatory practices, no officer would have dared to brutalize Mr.
Floyd. Hindsight is 20/20.
Despite the rage and pain this incident has caused, we must look forward. It is good to read the many statements being published by corporate and nonprofit organizations that are declaring
that Black lives matter. And it is good to see Black and White people championing the same cause, shoulder to shoulder. But as we know so well, these declarations and marching together
in protest must be reinforced with sustained actions that call for the kinds of legal, policy and everyday changes in people’s behavior that will genuinely attack the root causes of systemic
We are cautiously optimistic that, finally, our nation might begin not only to speak the words but also engage in the countless actions that might finally exorcise the devil of racism that has eaten at
the soul of America from before its inception. It is good to hear calls for the “good people” to stand up and speak out. It was good to see clergy, including Bishop Mariann Budde, say, “We
need moral leadership.” It is good to see chiefs of police on bended knee next to protesters. (We owe Colin Kaepernick an apology. We should all have been taking a knee with him.) It will be far better if we take that outrage to the ballot box and insist on the changes we have needed
and deserved for so long.
We must insist that the courts, the Congress and the state legislatures of our great nation curtail qualified immunity, a legal theory that forms the thick blanket of legal immunity that protects
government officials from prosecution for their criminal actions. We must hear women’s voices with the same clarity and urgency that we hear men. We must also insist that prospective police
officers undergo psychological evaluation to weed out unreconstructed racists before they can be sworn onto any force. And there must be implicit bias training for those who are unconscious
that they are the beneficiaries of White privilege. There must be an accurate national database of excessive force complaints so that no police department inadvertently hires a candidate
against whom multiple complaints of brutality have been proven. Officers who know about illegal deprivation of civil and human rights must be encouraged to freely report what they see
and what they know about fellow officers, without fear of reprisal. And there must be truly independent citizen review committees empowered to protect the communities they live in.
We are not naïve. Assuring justice in criminal investigations and prosecutions is a gargantuan task. But if we persevere, and if we put human rights above political expediency and tribalism, love
above hate, we may one day join with Gianna in saying that her daddy did not die in vain, for he truly changed the world.
—johnnetta betsch cole is national chair and president of the National Council of Negro Women Inc. and janice l. mathis is executive director.