Police Brutality and Discrimination – Judith Harrington

JJ Harrington

African American History

Final Blog

May 13, 2022

           Since the day I was born, I have always learned about the word discrimination, what it means, and the power it carries. Whether this is while playing with my friends, reading books, or sitting with my family at dinner. The word has been floating around in dialogue for as long as I can remember. Discrimination is a big word that can mean different things to different people. Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary has three definitions for the word, the first being “prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment”. The definition explained prior is the most traditional.

 I attended Heather McGee’s presentation on her novel, The Sum of Us. In this presentation, McGee focused a lot on the concept of discrimination toward African American people throughout United States history. McGee brought up the idea of “the zero-sum” this idea suggests that as people of color make their way in the right direction towards equality, white people will lose their footing in society. Almost as though a future with no racism is scary for white people because some fear the idea of an entirely equal society. During McGee’s presentation, she expressed that “Whites see racism as a zero-sum game that they are now losing”. This idea of the zero-sum game can be tied back to early times in American history. There once was a time when society revolved around a sort of hierarchy. In Freedom on my Mind by Deborah Gray White, it is said that around the time of reconstruction in 1875, “southern whites found black involvement intolerable; they were shocked and outraged that their world had been turned upside down. For them, black political participation represented a ‘base conspiracy against human nature” (343). We can see the idea of zero-sum game in this quote as the fear of white people in sensed through the use of the term “intolerable”. During this time, the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was passed, which was supposed to mandate public accommodation – meaning people of color should be allowed to go to the same stores and find the same resources as white people.

Oak Park Montgomery used to be a booming town born out of gilded inequality, a place rich with public goods. Town after town was shutting down access to public goods because of the fact that Congress wanted to allow white people and African American people to share public goods. Oak Park turned into a location of explicit segregation; people did not want to share their public goods. Therefore, they enforced strict regulations. The issue in Oak Park became more extensive than just people being upset and ending up being brought to court for further discussion. To help explain why this was allowed, in Freedom on my Mind, white writes, “the court overturned the civil rights act of 1875, declaring that Congress did not have the authority to protect against the discriminatory conduct of individuals and private groups” (345). The process of certain protections for African Americans being taken away was a continuous thing that we saw a lot around this time of the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

Growing up, I went to a primarily white private preschool through a twelfth-grade academy right outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Based on this, I had a somewhat shaded vision of a lot of the discrimination that was present just before my eyes. In my school, everyone was friends; graduating with 108 kids forced one another to intermingle and meet everyone. I always noticed that there were many more African American people inwards toward the city than there were in the suburbs near where I lived. With a understanding of the long terms effects from redlining that I have gained from African American History, I can see how in the past Minneapolis experienced redlining and there are still effects being shown today. With the apparent issue of discrimination around me, I grew a heavier understanding of the issues that were around me. However, I always felt as though I was in a bit of a bubble. Thinking something this bad would never happen near me.

It wasn’t until May 25, 2020, that I fully understood that our society is still so entirely messed up, and sure, we have moved in the right direction toward an anti-racist community, but we are not there at all yet. Living in Minneapolis during the death of George Floyd was one of the most eye-opening experiences I have ever seen. There is blatant racism all around me. It was having such a terrifying thing happen in a place I have always considered to be safe, which made the issue of discrimination much more apparent in my eyes. Systemic racism is built into our society, whether it is something we recognize or not. Negin Toosi writes in “Recognizing racism in George Floyds death” they write that “The way that major incidents like the death of George Floyd are framed by leaders and legislators of the country contributes to broader social norms around how we identify and address racism”. In this quote, it is apparent that racism is something that needs to be talked about more broadly. Leaders of not only in the United States but all over the world have a significant contribution to the opinions and attitudes of the people that they govern. Power is vital and has more of an influence than many people want to admit. It is apparent how racism has been portrayed through government; as we read, White explains how President Nixon displayed racism himself. “He increased the number of police that patrolled black communities and supplied them with military grade equipment he continued the policy, started under Johnson, of allowing police to arrest citizens without a warrant and detain anyone who looked like they might commit a crime or present public danger” (625). It is sickening to hear how long racism has been being pushed out by people in power.

Despite the horrifying reality of the death of George Floyd, Heather McGee spoke on the potential of the United States having some sort of a wake-up call. Due to the backlash from the situation, McGee believes that potentially we have reached our moral limit, potentially, there is hope for more education on inequality. She spoke on how it would be impossible for something to happen and for discrimination to just change; however, she believed that with more education surrounding the topic there could be a better chance of change towards the better. However, she recognizes that change can only mean so much. It also stands out to me that the death of George Floyd took place in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, racial differences and discrimination were at an all-time high. Toosi writes, “These patterns may have been in part due to the salience of racial health disparities made evident by the global pandemic; many politicians referred to the higher rates of sickness and death due to COVID19 among Black and Latinx citizens in the same statement in which they mentioned George Floyd, pointing to both as evidence of racial injustice”. I feel as though both concepts of the death of George Floyd, as well as the rise of the COVID19 pandemic in the Black and Latinx communities, are both can also be tied back to the long-lasting history of racism. These situations of inequality resulting in riot would be avoidable if there were better regulations on racism in America.

Through Black Power movements and organized African American organizations, it is apparent how African Americans have attempted to adjust to the unpredictable world we live in. However, the white response to these efforts throughout history shows how we still have lots of room to improve.



Works Cited


Toosi, N. R., Layous, K. & Reevy, G. M. (2021) Recognizing racism in George Floyd’s death. Anal Soc Issues Public Policy. 21: 1184– 1201. https://doi-org.sandiego.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/asap.12282


White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *