By Kyle Singh
We are at an inflection point.
The ruthless killing of yet another innocent African American has put the country on the edge. It has pushed people to anger and shock. It has made people cry and made people riot. It has made people stand with peace for an event that goes against the very fiber of this nation. At the same time it is clear that George Floyd’s death can be seen as a spark for a deeper conversation that has been long overdue.
The protesters are first and foremost demanding justice. They are demanding that the blind lady of the law balances her scales accordingly. This should be the first priority, and rightfully so. If four civilians committed a crime of this magnitude, they would be locked up immediately. The fact that our institutions, especially those that protect the law, can somehow get away from the implementation of the law is alarming. It violates our principles as Americans. This is independent of Floyd’s race. At the same time, we all know that his race plays a role. We all know too well that had Floyd been of a different race, the situation may have ended up a lot differently.
This is not something that takes much explaining to the average American. Yet, most of us have not had a full analysis of our own biases. We all have them. It is a part of human nature. But I truly believe that a revitalization of our institutions, through legislation and constitutional amendments, can only come into fruition if we first undertake this task as people. We must sit down with ourselves and identify the way our biases manifest themselves in everyday life. Do we maintain the dignity of other peoples in our daily interactions with them? Do we truly see them as the same. This exercise must be done between all races and in relation to the cross interactions we observe between people from all walks of life. We must be honest with ourselves and be cautious of such dealings.
On the legislative front, for example, there are also practical systemic changes we can fight for. Officer Derek Chauvin, who killed Floyd, had 18 prior complaints to his name. There is absolutely no justification for him being on the streets. Three justified and proven complaints should be more than enough to terminate any cop. Moreover, we should strive for a police force which is representative, geographically, of the communities that they serve. These are just a few of the pragmatic legislative goals we can strive for.
We must also not ignore the deep inequities that have been manifested within the African American community itself. We must begin with the principle that each person has the potential to do incredible things. We should maintain the liberties of each person regardless of race, and advocate for their dignity. This means that we should advocate for equality of opportunity within such marginalized communities. Too often, governmental action has taken its toll on the African American community. Why do we have the case in which so many African American children, with just as much potential as the rest of the country, are subjected to poor schooling. This is because of the Government’s long track record of imposing inefficiencies in the quality of schooling based on the income of a particular neighborhood. There must be a better way. A way in which we can restore their freedom and standing in our society.
The looting and rioting that have taken hold cannot be part of the solution. Such actions drown out the message I have articulated. If we wish to see the kind of deep intrinsic change we are fighting for, we must proceed with peace and patience. It is the only way. There is clear consensus on this. People’s lives are being destroyed. They have spent years building up their businesses. Those violent protesters should not take away from the cause. They do this in their selfishness.
This brings me to the question of what we must do as a people. How we must respond. We must also adopt introspection as it pertains to our demographic. Our response to this, as Indian Americans, has remained the same as it has in the past. We can look at the precedent and easily point out our shortcomings. Many of us, and our parents, came here with little. We came here energized, inspired by the idea of this country. The idea that hard work, grit, and perseverance could lead to a life of prosperity. We believed in this cause, leaving everything we had in the country we once called home. That promise of equal opportunity. That promise of freedom and the American dream that has been fulfilled for so many of us should fire us up to rise up to the inequities we see in the African American community, as they have played out, and within other marginalized groups. We tend to be averse to risk as a people. It is time to take action. It is time to make the kind of change people can feel every single day. In some sense, we should treat these groups as our own, for it is likely that we have felt the inequities they are articulating at some point in our lives. We must only accept a nation in which our city upon the shining hill is accessible and open to us all.
Kyle Singh is a rising senior at Columbia University and considering run for local office in Long Island in the coming cycle.