(CBS News) – As protests against police brutality intensify, many people are asking: How did we get to this point?
Millions are taking to the streets to raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd but for many, the message is deeper.
“In a lot of minds, black life isn’t valued as much as non-black life,” said Jody Armour, law professor at the University of Southern California.
Armour says Floyd’s death was a tipping point.
“There a convergence of a lot of different cases at this moment that I think has raised a lot of public awareness and made the public especially sensitive,” she said.
Black communities already suffering disproportionately from the invisible threat of COVID-19 are still facing the very visible threat of racism and injustice.
In the weeks before Floyd’s death, people saw the disturbing video of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting death. The black man was killed after being chased and confronted by two armed white men while jogging. They were arrested 74 days later and now face murder charges.
Details emerged about medical worker Breonna Taylor’s shooting death at the hands of police Louisville, Kentucky. So far, nobody has been charged in that case.
And in New York City, Amy Cooper’s 911 call got national attention after a black birdwatcher asked her to leash her dog.
Cooper called police and told them that an “African American is threatening my life.” Video of the encounter went viral.
“What do you do when you’re confronted with, you know, those systemic dynamics that might speak to your powerlessness to protect your own life, your own community, your own culture,” said Dr. Rick Williamson, clinical physiologist.
Williams said the anger and anguish felt by African Americans comes from a long history of trauma. And for others, the recent images confront a harsh reality.
“We’ve come through years of believing that we’re in a place of post racialism. And then we encounter….what we actually are seeing happening, you know, through cell phone images and video. That can be a real shattering of some things,” Williamson said.
That shattering now turning to a rally cry – Black Lives Matter. Across the nation, people are hoping to make this moment a turning point for change.
“We have to be willing to embrace uncomfortable conversations… work through some of our unconscious biases and conscious misconceptions about one another. We have to get to the point where we recognize black lives do matter,” Armour said.