After the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, The Washington Post began a database on January 1, 2015 (www.washpost/fatalforce) tracking all the on-duty police shootings of unarmed people across the country. Their numbers were more than double those voluntarily reported by police departments to the FBI—just one example that many police departments cannot be trusted to hold themselves accountable. There have been more than five thousand shooting deaths since the database began, averaging one thousand every year.

The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN on May 25, 2020, won’t be counted in The Post’s database however because police did not shoot him—four white police officers killed him by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes in broad daylight, curbside, in front of witnesses. Floyd was lying on the ground, handcuffed, while an officer taunted him to get up and get into their cruiser. Even after he had no pulse, they continued to kneel on his neck. When EMT’s arrived, no one attempted to resuscitate him. And his crime—allegedly passing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.

Every white person in America needs to watch the horrific video of Floyd narrating his own death by police. Imagine if the color of each participant was reversed and four men of color were kneeling on the neck of a white man for eight minutes in broad daylight? Arrests would be immediate, convictions assured, and sentences harsh.

Because of our nation’s history, white America is blinded by a police uniform. The criminal justice system has been the enforcer of systemic racism for four hundred years. White people see police as the good guys, since they have been charged with protecting white privilege. Police are given a pass by white America no matter what actions they engage in while wearing that uniform since the means always justifies the ends—keep the power system in place. The incident in Central Park this week spelled it out loud and clear. Every white person knows they can call police and allege threats to their life by a person of color and they will be taken seriously, possibly ending the life of the person they accuse.

Black and brown people in America have a very different view of police based on their lived experience. Every year for the last five years, approximately one thousand civilians are shot by an on-duty police officer, disproportionately impacting black and brown people. No warrant, no arrest, no probable cause, no trial, no verdict—just killed. The ones we see on the news are just the tip of the iceberg and communities of color know that.

Thanks to bystanders with cellphones and videos we all know now, and the numbers show the gravity of the problem. White people cannot hide behind their privilege of not knowing or not wanting to know. It’s right in our face. No human being with an ounce of compassion can deny the injustice of these killings. One only need imagine their son, spouse, coworker, or neighbor on the ground, tortured and taunted, for outrage to be inflamed.

The fact that many white people react to the pain and anger of black and brown people only when white property is destroyed and not when black lives are destroyed says more about white America than people of color. We should all be united whenever an American life is marginalized or destroyed. That was the point when Colin Kaepernick took the knee during the national anthem and we saw how united white people were about that. Many took offense for the sake of the flag instead of for the lost lives of our fellow Americans.

The police are entrusted to serve and protect everyone in their community, not just white people. Fortunately, more and more white people are joining people of color to hold police accountable for fair, humane policing. Fear of black and brown people and racial profiling combined with training in the use of deadly force create a combustible police department. Officers with known racial bias must be fired since they tarnish the brand for every other officer. Those who commit acts of brutality that are illegal without the uniform should be arrested and charged for the criminal acts they commit. When those charged with protecting public safety purposely endanger the lives of civilians with impunity, law enforcement loses its moral authority. Public safety for only some is really terror for us all. It can no longer stand. Our country will be healed from its original sin of racism only when those who enforce the law understand their decades-long complicity and take active steps to ensure fair and equal treatment for all.