He described the killing as “an act of brutality so elemental, it did more than deny one more black man in America his civil rights and his human rights, it denied him of his very humanity, and it denied him of his life.”
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged in the murder and taken into custody.
His statement referenced the words “I can’t breathe,” which have become a call of solidarity since Eric Garner uttered them as he was choked by New York City police six years ago. “Depriving George Floyd, as it deprived Eric Garner,” Biden continued, “[of] one of the things every human being must be able to do — breathe. So simple, so basic, so brutal.”
Unfortunately it’s also a scenario that’s played out in some form many, many times over the history of the United States. “The latest addition to the endless list of stolen potential wiped out unnecessarily,” as Biden put it. “The original sin of this country still stains our nation today.”
Other recent events, including the fatal shooting of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and a threatening 911 call reporting black birdwatcher Chris Cooper in New York, follow a similar pattern. “Weeks like this we see it plainly,” Biden said, “that we’re a country with an open wound.”
George Floyd’s death is also set against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing economic collapse, which has put the country even more on edge.
The killing of George Floyd also further highlights the unequal treatment experienced by large segments of the population. “Every day African-Americans go about their lives with constant anxiety and trauma wondering who will be next. Imagine if every time your husband or son, wife or daughter left the house you feared for their safety from bad actors and bad police.”
Biden also looked to offer some hope in a time seemingly so devoid of it. “It’s long past time we made the promise of this nation real for all people,” Biden said. “It’s time for us to take a hard look at the uncomfortable truths. It’s time for us to face that deep open wound we have in this nation. We need justice for George Floyd.”