U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Missouri, tonight said that he had never before seen the level of disruption that has been seen over the George Floyd incident in the United States. U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-3rd Dist., said it looks like conversations have started over the issues.
“I think the conversations are going to be hard,” Rep. Davids said. “It’s going to be hard for everybody.”
The two representatives made their remarks during Rep. Davids’ “Virtual Conversation on Justice and Equity” Thursday evening on social media.
Rep. Cleaver is a pastor and also a former mayor of Kansas City, Missouri. He said the nation has been on the edge of racial conflict for the past 300 years, although it has not been as visible in the “in-between times” as it is now.
“We’re really in between state involvement, federal involvement and municipal involvement,” Rep. Cleaver said. Kansas City, Missouri, he said, is in a unique position of the police being placed under state control. The action was taken many years ago because of mob influence, he said.
George Floyd, who died after an incident in Minneapolis, would be dead even if he had been in Kansas City with the police controlled by the state, Rep. Cleaver said, because of training and policy manuals. Techniques such as choking or putting a knee on a person’s neck are a throwback to slavery, according to Rep. Cleaver, and originally grew out of an incorrect belief that blacks did not suffer as much as others.
The sight of a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck, not listening or not believing his “I can’t breathe” pleas, created an outrage in the public, according to Rep. Cleaver.
“But if you peel back that outrage, you will find pain,” Rep. Cleaver said. “The pain is that after 300 years the federal bogeyman called race comes out of its grave and haunts us again, and keeps coming out and coming out regularly since 1865.”
He has never seen this level of reaction, and he grew up in a Jim Crow era in Texas, he added, and worked in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, learning about justice and injustice. He has never seen this level of demonstrations all over the country, he said.
It has been exacerbated by politicians that prevented people from coming together, he said.
“We’re in a bad spot right now, but we’ll come out of it,” Rep. Cleaver said.
Rep. Davids said she appreciated the insight of looking past the anger, and seeing pain.
“There’s a lot of deep wounds in this country that we haven’t seen healed in the long history we’ve got in this country,” she said.
Rep. Davids said she also has been concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic and the disproportionate impact on the black community and communities of color.
“We’ve got a confluence like never before,” Rep. Cleaver said.
More than 100,000 Americans died of the novel coronavirus, he said. The economy was affected as a result with 30 million people filing for unemployment. Production has dropped, and there is unrest all over the country.
“The only thing we don’t have yet are the locusts and the frogs that hit Egypt,” Rep. Cleaver said.
There are unemployed parents, unemployed kids, no money in the household, teens can’t get jobs to earn money for school clothing, and it’s a bad situation, he said.
“Right now we have this confluence, and one of the things we absolutely must do, I think, is to begin to pass legislation that will mitigate some of these issues, make life a little bit easier,” Rep. Cleaver said.
Legislation will reduce some of the problems, but there are other problems that cannot be reduced by money, he added. There is a bad past on the issue of race and they can’t legislate it away, he said.
“I think we forget what has happened, and start making new mistakes,” he said. “The world’s flagship democracy is looking as if it’s falling apart.”
Some of the rest of the world now are feeling sorry for the United States, he added.
“There’s a need for leadership right now like we’ve never had before,” Rep. Cleaver said. “People who will stand up and speak the truth.”
At the same time, that truth has not entered into a lot of people and there needs to be compassion with people who are struggling, he added.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do in this country,” Rep. Cleaver said. “I’m not ready to give up.”
“We can’t allow ourselves to become despondent and timid right now,” he said. “This is when the country needs people who are visionary and can see beyond race.”
“This could be considered the great awakening for this country, when people say, I’m not going to go back,” he said.
Rep. Cleaver noted that people involved in demonstrations and protests are a diverse group of people. There is a movement toward change and it ought to be exciting for everybody who loves this country, he said.
Rep. Davids said she was often asked if she wanted to be a voice for different topics and communities. But she said her job as an elected official was to listen, because the communities have a voice, they just have been ignored for so long.
People are expressing fear for wanting to walk down the street and not be killed, she said, and to know that so many elected officials have not been listening to folks and believing the reality of their experience of what happens when they walk outside their house.
“No, we’re not there yet,” she said. She appreciated that Congress is more diverse now. “We still have so much work to do.”
Rep. Cleaver said people should understand that anarchists are infiltrating peaceful, patriotic protests.
He said he was on the Homeland Security committee, and has learned through unclassified information from there that there are anarchists whose goal in life is disrupting the United States, and they have shown up in Ferguson, Missouri, and other places in the past. He said he was told by the Justice Department that authorities had identified anarchists from other states, who were there to disrupt and cause problems.
Also, he said there are some social media posts, such as on Facebook, that have been posted by Iranians, Saudi Arabians, Russians and Chinese in an attempt to further disrupt this country.
One way to change is for every human being to understand they can contribute to a better nation, according to Rep. Cleaver. “We are not meant to be at war with one another,” he said.
To view more of this virtual conversation, visit https://www.facebook.com/RepDavids/videos/300453827634551/