George Clooney Calls Racism America’s 400-Year-Old Pandemic: ‘It Infects Us All’

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, George Clooney is using his platform to speak out about what he calls America’s worst pandemic: racism. The actor and activist penned a powerful essay for The Daily Beast in which he discussed the systemic oppression of and violence against the Black community through the lens of Floyd’s death as well as the ensuing outcry.

Clooney began by posing a series of rhetorical questions intended to illustrate how police brutality against black citizens has hardly changed. “Is it 1992?” he asks. “Did we just hear a jury tell us that the white cops that we watched on tape hundreds of times beating Rodney King weren’t guilty of their obvious crimes? Is it 2014, when Eric Garner was executed for selling cigarettes by a white cop who strangled him as we watched? His words ‘I can’t breathe’ forever etched into our minds? How many times have we seen people of color killed by police?” He lists more: Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Laquan McDonald.

He adds Floyd to the list of “the systemic cruel treatment of a portion of our citizens.” Clooney then goes on to address the protests and riots currently gripping the nation, saying, “The anger and frustration we see playing out once again in our streets is just a reminder of how little we’ve grown as a country from our original sin of slavery.”

While the country has spent the greater part of the last few months under the shadow of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Clooney says that specter pales in comparison to the pandemic of anti-Black racism. “It infects all of us, and in 400 years, we’ve yet to find a vaccine. It seems we’ve stopped even looking for one and we just try to treat the wound on an individual basis,” he wrote, adding, “‘And we sure haven’t done a very good job of that.”

Where do we go from here? Clooney emphasizes that it is going to take “systemic change in our law enforcement and in our criminal justice system.” We need widespread and sweeping reform in order to find leaders who “reflect basic fairness to all of their citizens equally.” It’s going to take all of us admitting that racism is a fundamental problem in this country — and taking action.

“So this week, as we’re wondering what it’s going to take to fix these seemingly insurmountable problems, just remember we created these issues so we can fix them,” Clooney wrote. “And there is only one way in this country to bring lasting change: Vote.”

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