EDITORIAL: The Sentinel stands against racial injustice and violence, supports equity and accountability

Adelaide Berrett, Clare Kim, Mia Allyson Montifar, and Vivian Tanforan contributed to this Editorial Opinion representing views of the Sentinel staff

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Adelaide Berrett

The Sentinel praises the Minneapolis jury for its guilty decision convicting the former police officer who murdered George Floyd. We’re speaking out  for an end to racial bias, inequity, violence and killings.

Racism. Inequity. Protest. Justice. I can’t breathe. Black Lives Matter.

These are the words that prominently appear in a simple search on April 21 for news commentary on the conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd that brought up 54.7 million articles on the trial and the verdict.

The Sentinel staff is adding one more article and a few more words: All hate must stop. 

After nearly a year of rightful protest, outrage and media coverage, anything less than a guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin would have been deplorable. Jurors found him guilty April 20 of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. 

The verdict came nearly a year after the world witnessed Chauvin press his knee into Floyd’s back and neck for nearly nine minutes, actions captured by a 17-year-old whose video went viral around the world and actions which jurors deemed caused his death. These actions also prompted a racial reckoning that some have called a twenty first century Civil Rights movement.

This is the accountability he must be held for and a step in fixing a system of inequity and racial disparity that has seen far too many unarmed Black people suffer or die at the hands of police in situations that many say should have been deescalated or handled with non-lethal force.

These situations shouldn’t be happening.

According to the June issue of U.S. News and World Report, “more than 1,000 unarmed people died as a result of police harm between 2013 and 2019, according to data from Mapping Police Violence. About a third of them were black. About 17% of the black people who died as a result of police harm were unarmed, a larger share than any other racial group and about 1.3 times more than the average of 13%.”

In fact, nine days before the verdict in George Floyd’s killing and ten miles away from the courthouse where the case was being heard, a Minnesota officer shot and killed 20-year-old Black unarmed motorist Daunte Wright during a car stop, a shooting that ignited days of unrest and clashes between protesters and police. The police chief of Brooklyn Center, the city where the shooting occurred, said to national media he believes the officer meant to use her taser and pulled out her weapon instead. She has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

It is inhumane to react and murder someone who is not armed and who is not threatening another person’s life, regardless of a person’s color. However, the spike in deaths and shootings of especially Black men has dramatically risen, and we all have to consider explicit or implicit bias. 

We need to keep speaking out. Walnut Creek was the site of many marches and protests, especially in light of the shooting of Miles Hall, a 23-year-old Black man shot by police after his family called for help, in 2018. Walnut Creek settled a federal lawsuit last September with Hall’s family for $4 million.   

Walnut Creek said in a news release, “The events of the day were tragic and difficult for all involved — the Hall family, the Walnut Creek community, and the police officers called to the scene. While the City recognizes the continuing loss for the Hall family, it is the City’s sincere hope that settlement of this civil lawsuit will provide a step towards healing.”

Too many communities are experiencing deaths that are “tragic and difficult for all involved” – and especially for the people who needlessly die. Millions of people worldwide witnessed Floyd’s death which unfolded for nine minutes due to a teenager who videoed police using excessive force, kneeling on the back of a handcuffed man.

People nationwide are calling for police officers to be held to a high accountability to protect, not abuse their power. Lives of innocent people are at stake. Many news and opinion reports point out metaphorically that some “bad apples” don’t necessarily make the “tree rotten” – but at some point, even an entire orchard needs reseeding or pruning.

We are proud to be part of a community that has mobilized so publicly with speeches, marches, and protests, in support of fairness and equality to Black people. The Sentinel believes Black Lives Matter, and we stand in solidarity with them and with all people of color who experience racist treatment.

Additionally, Black people are not the only ones being unfairly targeted. There has been a spate of hate-crimes, including street violence on elderly people, towards Asians and Asian-Americans that many believe are actions resulting from political and racist accusations over origins of the coronavirus. 

The recent Stop Asian Hate rallies and protests bring attention to the anti-Asian hate crimes that have been occurring globally, targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. According to The Washington Post, “anti-Asian hate crimes have spiked 150 percent since the pandemic began.” From the earliest attacks on the elderly at the start of COVID-19 to the Atlanta spa shooting in Georgia that took the lives of six Asian women on March 16, 2021, the AAPI community has been tormented with fear, neglect, and pain, especially over this past year. They plead for help and speak out, seeking to spread awareness to the rest of the world against the violent crimes, attacks, and murders. 

Sentinel Staff Writer Mia Allyson Montifar, one of the contributors to this editorial, said: “As an Asian-American myself, this makes me pretty nervous when going outside. You can never be too certain of who may or may not hold a racist grudge against you, and when I am out with my parents, I can’t help but glance over my shoulder every once in a while and make sure I am around various people. It may seem paranoid or excessive, but this has become the reality for POC in the U.S. We need to overcome these racial stereotypes and stop seeing skin color as a tell of whether or not someone is good or bad.” 

Some change is taking place. In late April of this year, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a hate crimes bill to combat violence against Asian Americans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill passed 94-1, with Missouri Senator Josh Hawley the only no vote. The bill is headed to the House of Representatives.

On April 29, as this editorial was being completed, a bipartisan Congressional committee tackled police reform issues that many are calling for, a response to national calls during the height of protests to “defund the police” and what lawmakers hope will bring more accountability and peace to communities and to police. 

Change is in the air, but our society needs a big gust of change, not a gentle breeze. 

The Sentinel joins these voices in denouncing racial inequity, implicit or explicit bias, hate and the acts of violence against Blacks, Asians and Asian American Pacific Islanders and people of color, and police use of force that ends the lives of unarmed people.

Voices spoke out loud over the past year in speeches, statements, and tweets against racism, social inequity, and bias in the law enforcement and court systems. They spoke out for justice, equality and accountability. Here is what some had to say: 

Northgate High School Principal Kelly Cooper: “I am grateful that in this instance, the justice system worked to hold Derek Chauvin accountable, though it is indicative of a lot of societal change still needed knowing that it might have gone either way, even with incontrovertible video evidence. I am also grateful for Darnella Frazier, the 17-year-old bystander who caught George Floyd’s murder on video. I have no doubt that this young bystander made a huge difference in not only the case, but in a strong societal shift in awareness and demands for change. This verdict is a positive step and brings hope for change.”

Vice President Kamala Harris:This verdict is but a piece of it. And it will not heal the pain that existed for generations, that has existed for generations among people who have experienced and first-hand witnessed what now a broader public is seeing because of smartphones and the ubiquity of our ability to videotape in real time what is happening in front of our faces. And that is the reality of it.”

President Joe Biden: “It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the Vice President just referred to — the systemic racism that is a stain on our nation’s soul; the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans; the profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day.” 

Women’s National Basketball Association and Player’s Association:  “This past year, we have witnessed traumatizing instances of police brutality that Black Americans disproportionately experience, with the murder of George Floyd at the forefront of the conversation. While this verdict represents a step toward justice, we are reminded that justice is too often not the outcome for people of color. The WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council will continue its work to combat injustice and inequality in our country and hope this represents a true turning point for how the effects of systemic racism begin to be addressed. We stand with all of those who have felt the deep impact of George Floyd’s death.”

Los Angeles Lakers basketball player LeBron James: “ACCOUNTABILITY” 

Actress Angelina Jolie (while donating to the NAACP Defense Fund): “Rights don’t belong to any one group to give to another. Discrimination and impunity cannot be tolerated, explained away or justified. I hope we can come together as Americans to address the deep structural wrongs in our society. I stand with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in their fight for racial equality, social justice, and their call for urgent legislative reform.”

Former President Barack Obama: “We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system…. “And as we continue the fight, we can draw strength from the millions of people – especially the young people – who have marched and protested and spoken up over the last year, shining a light on inequity and calling for change.”