Casey Family Programs statement on the death of George Floyd

Casey Family Programs Board of Trustees Chair David C. Mills and President and CEO Dr. William C. Bell issued the following statement on the death of George Floyd.

Our hearts ache today because of the senseless killing of Mr. George Floyd. Our prayers for peace, justice and hope go out to his family, his friends, and all the people around the world who have engaged in the nonviolent demand for an end to the systemic institutionalized racism that exists across this country.

On May 25, 2020, the world witnessed what African Americans in the United States have lived with since 1619, more than 400 years. The painful demonstration that the lives of Black people in America still remain such a valueless piece of the landscape of life for so many in the year 2020 (not 1820 or 1920) is beyond words to describe.

We watched a police officer use his knee to apply 8 minutes and 46 seconds of sustained pressure to Mr. Floyd’s neck. We watched a police officer continue this pressure for 2 minutes and 53 seconds after there was no sign of life remaining in Mr. Floyd’s body. We watched as three other officers witnessed Mr. Floyd being killed and did nothing to stop it. These were members of a system/an institution that saw less value in Mr. Floyd’s life than they did in their own.

Other members of that system/that institution saw no need to arrest those officers even though the arresting standard of probable cause had clearly been met. The value of Mr. Floyd’s life did not motivate them to take that action until four days later for the officer who held his knee to Mr. Floyd’s neck. The other three officers still have not been arrested more than a week later.

The prosecutorial group that held the press conference three days after Mr. Floyd was killed saw value in expressing a conclusion that evidence existed that suggested that the actions which resulted in his death may not have been criminal. But they did not see enough value in Mr. Floyd’s life to take any action on that day to arrest those who had participated in killing him.

Yet, a store owner who shot and killed someone that he believed was looting his store during the first night of unrest in Minneapolis was arrested that same night.

The image of white people standing in the State House of Michigan with guns, or screaming racist statements in the streets of Charlottesville without police intervention stand in stark contrast to the violent military-like responses to demonstrators in Minneapolis, Ferguson, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and countless other cities across this nation.

Until all of the eyes that look at Black, Brown and Native people actually see us as human beings who deserve the same life-sustaining respect, opportunities and treatment that white people get in America just by being born, these images and confrontations will continue to be repeated.

What you see when you look at me will have more impact on what you think about me; what treatment you think I deserve; and what level of justice you are willing to seek on my behalf than anything that I could ever do or say.

George Floyd, accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill … sentence: death.

Ahmaud Arbery, accused of jogging in a street and looking at a construction site … sentence: death.

Trayvon Martin, accused of walking to a store and walking back to his home … sentence: death.

Breonna Taylor, accused of living a life with no criminal record and sleeping in her bed at home in the middle of the night … sentence: death.

Eric Garner, accused of selling untaxed cigarettes … sentence: death.

Tamir Rice, accused of being a 12-year-old boy playing with a BB gun near a recreation center … sentence: death.

Alton Sterling, accused of selling CDs outside of a store … sentence: death.

Philando Castile, accused of driving a car with a broken taillight and informing a police officer that he had a legally registered gun in his car … sentence: death.

Walter Scott, accused of driving a car with a broken taillight … sentence: death.

Emmett Till, accused of being a young Black boy from Chicago who spoke to a white woman in Mississippi … sentence: death.

When will the systemic and institutionalized racism that continues to result in the deaths of our people be followed by more than words of outrage, speeches on the news, tears shed, nonstop news coverage of devastation or conflict, sad funerals, violent responses to peaceful protests, failed prosecutions and the lack of real change to the systems and institutions that have the power and authority to cause it to stop?

Sociologist Joe Feagin defined systemic racism as a complex array of anti-black practices, the unjustly gained political-economic power of whites, the continuing economic and other resource inequalities along racial lines, and the white racist ideologies and attitudes created to maintain and rationalize white privilege and power.

Feagin further concluded that the core realities of systemic racism are manifested in each of society’s major parts. According to his research, each major part of the United States’ society — the economy, politics, education, religion and the family — reflects the fundamental reality of systemic racism.

If we as a nation ever hope to overcome the impact of systemic institutionalized racism, we must first be willing to admit and agree that it exists. In a speech titled “The Other America,” on March 14, 1968, (22 days before he was assassinated) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I do not see how we will ever solve the turbulent problem of race confronting our nation until there is an honest confrontation with it and a willing search for the truth and a willingness to admit the truth when we discover it.”

Dr. King went on to say: “There are two Americas. One America is beautiful for situations …. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America children grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.

“But there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this other America, thousands of people, men in particular, walk the streets in search for jobs that do not exist …. In this other America, thousands of young people are deprived of an opportunity to get an adequate education …. Probably the most critical problem in the other America is the economic problem.”

Casey Family Programs has spent the last 54 years working to bring hope and uninhibited opportunity to families across this nation regardless of the ZIP code or community where they live.

As we move forward we will continue to work with others in our commitment to anti-racism, anti-discrimination and equity. We will continue to be motivated by our belief in the intrinsic dignity and value of every person. We will continue to strive for fairness and justice in the way people are treated across America and the opportunities they are given to succeed. As a nation, we must create a world where our children’s lives are no longer cut short by America’s history of systemic racism and inequitable treatment.

The seeds of systemic racism will try to change the conversation and cause many in this nation to focus on the few people who are looting and destroying property rather than the overwhelming majority of people who are seeking justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, and the thousands of families across America who carry the pain of losing unarmed family members to violence.

The seeds of systemic racism will try to change the conversation to a focus on law and order and cause many across America to once again forget that what we are witnessing is the collective cry for equal justice and equal protection under the law for all people in America.

Let us not be distracted. Let us not allow this moment for systemic change to once again be delayed because we are in pain or because some among us do not want to see the change that we seek.

If we stop now, then once again justice delayed will mean that justice can continue to be denied to countless children, families and communities across America. This is not the first time we have found ourselves as a nation at this point of demands for change.  Unfortunately, if we fail to act, it won’t be the last time we will be here.

Read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech “The Other America.”

Sincerely,

David C. Mills, Chair     William C. Bell, Ph.D., President and CEO

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