M. Todd Henderson on How Congress Can Respond to George Floyd

How Congress Can Respond to George Floyd

What comes next? With peaceful protests, riots and looting gripping dozens of American cities large and small, it is time to ask what comes after the passions cool.

If history is a guide, little will change. The officer who murdered George Floyd will get justice, but other bad cops will use the color of state power to wreak havoc on the lives of people—and their unions will largely stand behind them. Communities gutted by rage and opportunistic looting of the desperate will remain bereft of hope. There will be grandstanding and pandering by politicians, and maybe a bone thrown here and there, but it is very likely that the most disadvantaged in our society will be the ones most hurt by this outburst of anger and frustration. As one pastor on the predominately African-American west side of Chicago noted, the area that was devastated over the past few days had not yet recovered from the 1968 riots after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr.

The facts are bleak and what we are doing isn't working. There has been some progress for African-Americans, but not nearly enough. According to the National Institutes of Health, the life expectancy of white people is four years longer than black people. The Census Bureau reports that about 28 percent of African-Americans live in poverty, compared with about 12 percent of white Americans. A study by the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank found that if no changes are made to policy, it would take over 200 years for the average black family to have 90 percent of the wealth of the average white family. African-Americans are five times more likely to be incarcerated. Even those fortunate enough to make it to college—the gateway to success in America—fare much worse than their white colleagues: Black dropout rates are more than double white ones.

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