The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer has enraged the world, and rightly so. Abuse of Black persons by law enforcement is not new, however. It is entrenched. As a reporter early in my career, I saw it firsthand.
That is not to say that all American police officers are guilty of mistreating Black persons. I suspect, and hope, that only a small percentage of law enforcement officers are capable of carrying out racist violence. They must be held accountable. Even better, we need to prevent them from becoming officers of the law.
More common than outright violence, probably, is the subconscious bias that seems quite common among white Americans, some of whom happen to be police officers. In general, there is a lack of understanding among white persons - or perhaps it's denial - of the extent of institutionalized racism and the damage it has done.
When my white ancestors came to America, they were able to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," but make no mistake, this would have been all but impossible had they been Black. The Black experience is entirely different, and unfortunately, a significant number of white people can't see that. I believe there should be more study in public schools of Jim Crow laws and how they blocked any attempts at progress by Black citizens, and for a very long time. The fact is, no one can pull themselves up by their bootstraps when the path has been blocked every step of the way.
Again, referring to my own ancestors, upon their arrival in America, they were in a position, as white people, to make rapid progress, which they did. That is not to say it was easy. They worked extremely hard, saved, and sacrificed. But they were free to try.