Opinion: The conversation about police violence must continue

Sree Sreenivasan is a leading expert on how technology is changing our lives. He is a professor of Digital Innovation and CEO of Digimentors.
Liberal Opinion

Sree Sreenivasan

Digital Innovation Prof, Stony Brook; CoFounder, Digimentors
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Any discussion about racism and policing in America is bound to generate heated discourse. Our society is bitterly divided already, but the issue of systemic racism is one that is especially combustible.

Good.

Because we must continue to talk about it. The death of George Floyd, the death of Daunte Wright, and other similar cases involving minorities killed by police cannot be ignored or dismissed as political causes. They’re not, and the conservatives who say that are simply trying to make the conversation about police violence go away.

We can’t let that happen.

Hi, I’m Sree Sreenivasan. And I talk about politics, technology and more. Today, I’m going to share some thoughts on systemic racism in America, police violence, and what it means to talk about politics in this country.

I’ll first say I believe in good policing, have friends who serve and when I’m in trouble, I’m looking for the NYPD. 

Conservative media has dined out on racial justice issues over the last 4 decades, but the last 4 years was a wholly different animal. Racism in America is alive and well, and we need to talk about its victims if we want to truly address it – and I want to go back to the story of George Floyd and what happened in Minnesota in the summer of 2020.

The police officer who killed George Floyd was found guilty, but it didn’t bring Floyd back, and it certainly did little to end police violence. 

The trial was a telling snapshot of policing in America, and it didn’t paint a very rosy picture. I keep going back to the story of the original police report released by the Minneapolis PD after Floyd’s death,

This is a direct quote from the report:

Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. 

Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.

​​Nothing in the police report is technically untrue, but reading this and then seeing the video of the entire interaction would leave anyone scratching their head. Any time I see a report that includes “police say…” in it, I instantly apply a sort of mental asterisk to whatever comes next.

And what comes next is crucial, because there always seems to be a “next time.”

In Minnesota, “next time” came quickly. As the Derek Chauvin trial was coming to a close, police killed Daunte Wright. The officer who shot Wright claimed it was an accident, saying she thought her gun was a taser—which is somehow more absurd than the police descriptions of the George Floyd killing.

Police violence and broader systemic racism are in the political discourse like never before, and, in general, I view that as a good thing. 

But, calling these issues “politics” or “political” does nothing but undercut and downplay the severity of this situation. It’s a cheap reaction that belies a lack of will to even begin to understand the issue of racism in America and the manifestations of that racism. 

This sort of nihilism nearly tore the country apart on January 6.

Sure, politicians have a huge role to play in fixing things, but nothing about police violence strikes me as political in nature—we’re talking about a very fundamental part of how our society is set up. Communities need to be able to trust those charged with keeping them safe, it’s that simple.

Talking about police violence, systemic violence and how people of color are uniquely victimized by it is not talking about “politics,” it’s talking about the fabric of our society, and don’t let anyone tell you different.


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