For multitudes of people of color all over the country, recent racial tensions are no more than a reminder that racism is alive and well today. A reminder that we as a nation continue to be stranded on a seemingly endless plateau of progress in the fight for equality.
For centuries, people of color in the United States of America have been continually accosted, violated, and exploited by unjust racial ideologies, whether it be the disproportionate rate of incarceration of Black and Brown Americans in comparison to their White counterparts; the heartbreaking number of Black men, women, and children being killed by law enforcement on a daily basis; or the presence of young migrant children currently residing in cages within detention facilities along our borders. Whatever it is, minority groups are constantly reminded that although we are provided unalienable rights by the very Constitution of this country, we were never the originally intended recipients.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd became yet another name among the vast ocean of victims who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement officers. On this infamous day, another unarmed Black man was killed in police custody.
Those who are somehow still ignorant of the details of this “incident” may feel the need to ask themselves what Floyd could have done to end up in police custody in the first place. What crime could this man possibly have committed to somehow justify him being detained by four officers, being forcibly thrown to the ground, wrestled and restrained? What could he have done to be all the while screaming and pleading for his life to the four pairs of deaf ears who stood there for eight minutes and forty-six seconds? Well, all this occurred over an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. A bill that was later proven to be genuine.
24 Days Later
Nearly 2,000 miles away in Gardena, California, an 18-year old Salvadoran youth was killed during the night of June 18. Andrés Guardado, who had recently graduated high school, was studying at the Los Angeles Technical Trade College, and he was well on his way to establishing a career. Guardado worked during the night as an unlicensed security guard at a local auto parts store. Guardado was never armed, according to the storeowner, and he did not own a firearm, according to his family. Andrés was shot in the back seven times by LAPD deputies while he was on his knees, with his hands behind his back, after running in fear from law enforcement officers.
Guardado was declared dead at the scene of the crime. The authorities then destroyed several security cameras and seized footage of the incident from a local business, receiving a search warrant later. Any footage or official autopsy report for the killing of Andres Guardado has yet to be released to the public.
At this moment in time, no American can plead ignorant to the everyday abuse and racially charged indignation that Black and Brown Americans have faced for centuries. But all over the country, we find people trying to excuse the actions of law enforcement, trying to rationalize that the victim must have done something in order to be killed in such a cold-blooded manner. Others, meanwhile, are witnessing the aftermath of these law enforcement-sponsored public executions, and are finally hearing the stories from communities of color.
The truth is, until our communities are truly seen and heard, until change is implemented to finally achieve racial equality and to ensure that Black and Brown people are able to freely live in this country, no true progress will be made against the social injustices that currently govern the world.
We must raise each other up, stand, and fight together.
Whítmer Castro lives in Lowell, and works in construction and home remodeling. He is interested in learning more about social issues and partaking in the betterment of our communities through conversation and awareness.
We, Too, Are America is made possible through “Democracy and the Informed Citizen,” an initiative administered by the Federation of State Humanities Council through a grant from the Mellon Foundation.