Essay

Will the United States ever rebuild from its ugly and shameful history of institutional racism?

A pilgrimage to Central Camera

News is rippling through the film-photography community today that Chicago’s Central Camera was looted and set ablaze last night. Violent protests began Friday night in Chicago, and in many other large cities across the US, after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, a black man, while he was in their custody.

Downtown Indianapolis has seen violent protests this weekend, as well. One person was shot to death and at least two more were shot and injured. Windows are broken and shops have been looted, including in the block where my workplace is located. The city has instituted a 6 pm curfew tonight trying to stem the violence.

Anger was already high in Indianapolis. Earlier this month, city police shot Dreasjon Reed, an black man, to death as he was running from them. Reed was armed, it turned out, but the news does not indicate that he was waving his gun at the time he was killed. This happened about a mile and a half from my old house, near the Michigan Road, which quickly filled with protesters and was closed for hours. Read the story here.

As I scan news reports, it sounds like the majority of protesters in every city are loud but otherwise peaceful. A minority is violent.

I condemn the violence. But I fully support the right of everyone to protest police overuse and misuse of force, especially because it appears to affect black men in gross disproportion. I can’t imagine a valid reason for a Minneapolis police officer to keep his knee on a man’s neck for nine minutes, ignoring his protests that he couldn’t breathe. I can’t imagine a valid reason for an Indianapolis police officer to shoot a man in the back as he ran away. I can’t escape the feeling that if these two men were white, they would not have died.

The owner of Central Camera says he will rebuild his store. But will the United States ever rebuild from its ugly and shameful history of institutional racism? I’m not optimistic.

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