Assemblymember Berman's Statement on the Murder of George Floyd

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

SACRAMENTO - Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) released the following statement in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. 

Like you, when I saw the video of George Floyd’s murder I was shocked, outraged, and heart-broken. As the days went on, and protesters righteously took to the streets, my feelings transitioned into a combination of being consumed, overwhelmed, and frankly a bit paralyzed by what was going on.

Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Stephon Clark, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Those are just a few of the Black men and women – and even children – who have been killed either by police or vigilantes who saw the color of their skin, and immediately devalued the worth of their lives.

What the hell is wrong with us?

As a white man of privilege, I cannot begin to understand what my Black friends and constituents face on a daily basis. Therefore before speaking out, I wanted to listen. To the words of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Killer Mike of Atlanta, who spoke so passionately of the pain they were feeling in the early morning hours this past Saturday. Or the words of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who so poignantly wrote that “Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere.” Or in private conversations I have had with Black community leaders in my district over the last few days.

As long as people I have sworn to represent live in fear because of the color of their skin, I have failed. My grief and anger means nothing if I govern in a way that allows the systemic racism that has subjugated Black and other communities of color for centuries to persist. Whether it is an unwarranted suspension in school, an unjustified traffic stop, an unnecessary search, or one of the many other daily offenses, it is not a series of bad actions; it is a fundamentally failed system. The system must be changed.

California has taken steps to correct some of these systemic flaws. We have reformed the inherently racist and discriminatory money bail system. We have passed legislation to restrain the use of force, reform sentencing guidelines that are used to target minorities, and acknowledge the role that unconscious bias plays in perpetuating racism in our society, from education to healthcare.

We must do so much more. We must insist that our police, who are sworn to serve and protect, truly serve all Californians, and are not allowed to close ranks and protect their own at the expense of justice.

We must increase police oversight, further limit the use of deadly force, hold people who commit these atrocities accountable, and dismantle the underlying racism that has led us to this day.

But that is just the beginning. We must not become desensitized to the outrage that we feel right now. I am committed to working with my colleagues to make sure that we don’t return to normal, when normal has become the far too frequent murder of unarmed Black Americans by the police in broad daylight. It must be a constant focus and priority, factored into every action we take.

I pledge to do everything I can to address these failures and heal our communities. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote: “Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, [and] in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”