Racism: The Elusive Quest For Justice And The Inhumanity of Police Brutality in USA

Sylvanus A AYENI, M.D.
13 min readJun 10, 2020


Why The Vocabulary of grouping of Human Beings Must Change

The unprovoked, precipitous and senseless ending of George Floyd’s life in broad day light in Minneapolis, Minnesota by a police officer on May 25 has provoked an unprecedented global condemnation.

As Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and forty six seconds, George Floyd begged for compassion — “I can’t breathe” — and appealed to the inner ‘being’ of the four police officers. He called on his late mother. But nothing he said mattered to the four men who supposedly swore to an oath to protect him and members of his community.

Two other incidents of brutal murders of individuals with black skin occurred earlier this year. On March 13 in Louisville, Kentucky, the police used a judge’s order, the so-called no-knock warrant, to storm the apartment of Breonna Taylor and shot her dead as she slept. On February 25, Ahmaud Arbery was killed while jogging in the street in Georgia by two men with white skin, a retired policeman and his son.

The calls for justice for George Floyd, his family and ‘people of color’ have been loud and clear. Clergy men and women have called upon the nation to search its soul. There have been massive protests in cities across the USA and major cities around the world.

Politicians have vowed to make sweeping changes in laws of the criminal justice system. Community policing with empathy would hopefully become a reality, rather than broken campaign promises.

Several leaders have renewed their calls for the citizens to make their voices heard at the ballot box and for them to participate more actively in the political process.

All these calls are in order and several of them are long overdue.

As we dig dipper into the enormity of the cruelty of George Floyd’s death and similar ones in the past, it is helpful to look beyond the ‘visible realm’ and ask some hard questions.

What would make an unprovoked human being who has sworn to protect a community, apply his body weight through a bent knee for nearly nine minutes on the neck of a member of that community who is begging for his life, face down on a concrete surface?

What would make three other similarly unprovoked police officers participate actively in shutting off the airflow to George Floyd’s lungs, the blood flow to his brain and preventing the drainage of blood from his brain back to his heart?

Is it because of inadequate training at the police Academy? May be. Is it racism? Of course, many people would answer. Is it because the law is on the side of the police officers no matter how horrific their actions are? Yes; people familiar with police accountability or lack of it in Minnesota would say.

However, another dimension of this gruesome behavior of the Minneapolis police officers is the fundamental issue of their conviction about the “Essential Nature of a Human Being who does not look like them”.

With his knee pressed on George Floyd’s neck, left hand in his pocket and looking around unconcerned, who or what did the police officer think he was suffocating?

A black ……. (fill in the blank); man? — maybe; a black object? — most likely; a fellow human being with black skin color?— probably not; a fellow human being like himself created in the image of God?— absolutely not.

Presumably, firmly engrained in the knowledge and understanding of the four police officers is that their victim, George Floyd, was just another black …, thing. The officers carry with them all their pre-judgement, pre-suppositions, bias and cultural beliefs about “blackness” and the “black race”, which are, certainly by their action, diametrically opposed to their own “races”.

This issue however goes far beyond police departments and the justice system. The fundamental question we all have to ask is: Is somebody whose skin color is different from mine a human being like myself? Is he a creation of the same God that created me?

This moment in history requires transformation of the mindset of the people about the nature and meaning of the protective covering of our bones and flesh.

Race and Bias: The Necessity To Recondition The Mindset of The Population.

The stunning thing about misconception of race in USA is that the evidence is so clear that there is only one human race. Yet, many scholars including some scientists, leaders across the spectrum and large segments of the population cling tenaciously to the idea of human races. Widespread education regarding the truth about the concept of race must be instituted and led by scientists.

The marginalization of any segment of humanity because of the ignorant, highly prejudicial notion of inferiority or superiority of certain ‘races’ anchored on skin color deserves serious attention. If this issue is not addressed with the urgency it deserves, convulsive and destructive episodes of national and global unrest will continue to plague mankind.

The color of the skin, the texture of the hair or the features of the face of any human being has nothing to do with the “Essential Nature” of that individual. The skin color of any human being is a superficial protective covering that neither represents nor corresponds to the character, nature and essence of that human being.

The humanity, character, and thinking processes of each one of us, all the 7.8 billion people on earth, come from, and are dependent on the output of our brains. The color of the skin has nothing to do with these essential attributes of any person.

The output of the human brain is a complex amalgam of inheritance, parenting, early basic education, nutrition, good health, decent living environment, available opportunities and public safety. In other words, human beings with any skin color can achieve whatever they want if they work hard and if they live in an environment where the favorable conditions listed above exist.

We are our brains. We are not the colors of our skin. Furthermore, there is no difference in the color of the brains of all the people on earth. No human being has a black brain, or brown brain or yellow brain or white brain.

I have had the opportunity to participate in surgical operations on the brains of patients from all the continental groups of the human race. I have never seen a black, brown, white or yellow brain.

All healthy brains look the same, with the same normal structure. Every possessor of human brain is endowed with talents which can flourish if the owner of the brain lives in a loving and just environment where there is no pressure or tornique around their neck.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his August 28, 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech stated: “I have a dream that my four little chi1dren will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. That character is rooted in their brains not in the color of their skin.

What Dr. King was saying is that the humanity of his four little children is not represented by their skin color, but by their character, the purity of their hearts and the quality of the output of their brains. That is how the world should judge them and relate to them, not via the prism of their skin color.

We should refrain from referring to people as black human beings. They are human beings with black skin color including for example, Africans and many Indians. By and large, people do not relate to Indians as “blacks”, even though many Indians have darker skin color than some Africans.

We should refrain from referring to people as brown, white or yellow human beings. They are human beings with different shades of skin color.

One of the greatest challenges facing mankind is how to expunge the toxic, nefarious fundamental negative perception of people of African descent from their sub-consciousness.

Whether we wish to accept it or not, the truth is that there is a common belief that people with black skin and certain facial and hair features belong inherently to the bottom of the human ladder.

How does the USA undergo a paradigm shift from centuries of classification, stratification and pre-judgement of segments of the population based entirely on skin color?

This is a major challenge, not just for the Minneapolis police department and other police departments across the country, but for the entire nation. It is not enough for police officers to undergo training in ethnic and cultural sensitivity and in de-escalation techniques, although those are important. Major fundamental reforms in the understanding of the essence of a human being, and education about stereotypes and bias are needed.

Undertaking these reforms will not be easy, but the nation has no choice. The paradigm shift is an absolute necessity if the country really wants to attack this deadly “race” issue head on. Eight minutes and forty six seconds of cutting off air to the lungs, and stopping nourishment — via blood flow — to that crown jewel of creation, the brain of George Floyd has resulted in a heavy knee on the nation’s conscience.

Combatting Stereotypes and Misconceptions about “Races” In Early Age.

Would training in ethnic and cultural sensitivity and changes in laws to assure greater police accountability have prevented the unwarranted death of George Floyd and other African-Americans whose lives were similarly ended prematurely? Maybe and maybe not.

There is an educational measure which should be seriously considered as a vital component to ushering in true “Unity in Diversity” in the USA. This measure involves choking the seeds of bias and stereotypes before they germinate in the minds of our children.

In an article titled; “Bias Starts as Early as Preschool, but Can Be Unlearned”, published on June 4, 2019 by Amanda Armstrong, she discussed the findings of a new study with 4- and 5-year-olds done by researchers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

The researchers concluded, among other findings: “Relying on both implicit and explicit measures, we assessed 4‐year‐old children’s responses to target images of children who varied systematically in both race (Black and White) and gender (male and female). Children revealed a strong and consistent pro‐white bias. This outcome, which constitutes the earliest evidence of bias at the intersection of race and gender, underscores the importance of addressing bias in the first years of life”.

Racial and gender bias begins at a very young age. The seed of future systemic racism in commerce, in education, in healthcare and in the justice system is unfortunately, already present very early in life. This seed must be removed. Teachers across the nation must be trained to address this issue and parents must do their part at home. This dimension of the war against bias and stereotypes must be a priority for policy makers, political leaders and educators. The stake is too high.

It is also crucial for this education to continue at least through high school, and better still, beyond. By the time a person applies for admission to any municipal police force, if the flame of this bias has not yet been extinguished or at least significantly mitigated, it is already too late.

The Color-Coding of Human Populations Should Be Discarded

One thing that should be seriously examined in the effort to mitigate “racism” is the color-coding of human beings. The current vocabulary of grouping of human beings must change. This issue should be addressed boldly. Yes, it is challenging and some people may consider it unrealistic. But it should not be ignored.

By and large, skin color is usually a central element of the introduction or reference to human beings especially in a nation of immigrants like the USA. The inbuilt intrinsic bias to the vocabulary makes serious and fundamental change absolutely necessary. Why is it so pivotal to address this issue?

Because at the core of centuries of degradation, dehumanization and injustice is the perception and direct transfer of the color of the skin to the nature and essential humanness of the individual. This perception and transfer are not rooted in scientific facts, especially genetics, and there is total disregard of the doctrine of God’s creation of all His children in His own image.

When some human beings with a different skin color are perceived as less than human and as inherently violent and unintelligent, just because of the skin color, then color-coding of mankind must be discarded.

If we fail to take this step, we are ignoring an important aspect of the root of “racism”, and the deadly malady will continue to fester beneath the surface despite all the other well-intentioned measures that are put in place.

When the spirit and the soul of any human being are perceived exclusively through the lens of superficial skin color, that perception is fundamentally flawed, it is dangerous, it is unjust and it is inhumane.

There should be no more “black and brown people”.

There should be no more “white people”.

There should be no more “people of color”. The absurdity of this phrase is inherent in its implication; that the rest of the society consists of — people without color — or colorless people !!!

Some people may argue that if a person’s skin color is not acknowledged, then you are denying who they are, what they go through everyday and what their ancestors went through.

Let me be clear. I am not advocating a color blind society. That is wishful thinking and it is incompatible with the nature of Man. We see, acknowledge and admire colors based on the particular situation and our preferences.

Existentially, it would be hypocritical not to acknowledge the fact that an East African man has black skin. What I am saying is that he is not the black man that the world thinks he is. He is not inherently violent, stupid, dangerous, unintelligent or sub-human.

I was born and raised in Nigeria. I am very proud of my black skin color and my heritage. However, when you focus on skin color and, for example, refer to Nigerians as “blacks”, you reduce a very complex society and group of people to a monolithic entity based entirely on skin color. Same thing goes for every human being.

Some people may say I am spliting hairs. Far from it. This is reality, and the earlier we inform ouselves about this reality, the more just, peaceful and inclusive our world would be.

Changing The Vocabulary of Grouping of Human Beings.

It is time to consider referring to Americans using their continental origin, linguistic origin, or regional origin. It is far more historically truthful and less prejudicial to use the terms African-Americans, Anglo-Americans or European-Americans instead of ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ respectively.

By and large, society currently refers to descendants from Asia as Asian-Americans and those from Latin America and the Middle East as Latinos and Middle Easterners respectively. Hispanics are identified by their linguistic origin.

There has to be consistency. There is inherent, sub-conscious bias and incongruity when Indians, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are referred to as Asian-Americans, immigrants from Latin America are referred to as Latinos and African-Americans are referred to as blacks.

These phrases: “black and brown people”, “white people”, and “people of color” should be permanently removed from the vocabulary of:

  1. The Media
  2. Scientists and researchers.
  3. Parents.
  4. Politicians.
  5. Pastors, Imams and Rabbi.
  6. Professionals including medical personnel, people in legal and engineering fields and musicians.
  7. Celebrities.

This proposed dimension of solutions to the centuries old problems of “racism” in the USA should also be drilled into our children at school from kindergarten to graduate school.

Some people may say these are radical proposals. Yes, they are. The urgency of this moment in history demands radical, thoughtful, peaceful and challenging proposals.

There is nothing wrong with the usual; ‘We are so sorry for your loss”; “Our prayers and thoughts are with you and your family” and “We must come up with bipartisan bill to make changes in the justice system”. However, these steps need significant augmentation.

The inhumanity displaced by the ex-Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, even after he knew that George Floyd was pulseless and his heart had stopped beating demands extraordinary soul-searching response.

Long Term Consequences of Inaction or Feeble Actions.

Hopefully, the powers that be in various sectors in the USA would seriously consider the suggestions in this article and take action. The following is a historical context regarding the profound injustice and dehumanization which extrapolation of skin color as the essential nature of any human being can provoke.

In the May 1851 issue of The New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, Dr. Samuel Cartwright, a professor of “diseases of the Negro” at the University of Louisiana, now Tulane University published a paper in which he cataloged supposed physical differences between whites and blacks, including the claim that black people had lower lung capacity.

In the widely circulated paper, “Report on the Diseases and Physical Peculiarities of the Negro Race,” Dr. Cartwright wrote, inter alia:

Before going into the peculiarities of their diseases, it is necessary to glance at the anatomical and physiological differences between the negro and the white man; otherwise their diseases cannot be understood. It is commonly taken for granted, that the color of the skin constitutes the main and essential difference between the black and the white race; but there are other differences more deep, durable and indelible, in their anatomy and physiology, than that of mere color.Besides, it is not only in the skin, that a difference of color 
exists between the negro and white man, but in the membranes,the muscles the fluids and secretions.

Even the negro's brain and nerves, the chyle and all the humors, are tinctured with a shade of the pervading darkness. His bile is of a deeper color and his blood is blacker than the white man's.
There is the same difference in the flesh of the white and black man, in regard to color, that exists between the flesh of the rabbit and the hare. His bones are whiter and harder than those of the white race, owing to their containing more phosphate of lime and less gelatine.

Really? ……. the color of the skin constitutes the main difference between the white and black race?

The brain and nerves …. are tinctured with a shade of pervasive darkness !!!

His blood is blacker than the white man’s !!!

After tolerating the absurdity and prejudicial intensity of the few quotes above, if you can take more, then please click the link and read the whole paper while holding on to your breath. Otherwise, we’ll just move on.

It is often stated that: “Today’s wisdom is tomorrow’s folly”. That is true. With huge advances in science over the centuries, many previously long held dogmas have been expunged. Hence, some would argue, we should pardon Dr. Cartwright. However, it should be noted that his professorial assertions were based exclusively on skin color and not on any rational, unbiased or scientific thought.

My hope is that none of us would want our grand-children and great-grand-children to react to our attitudes and beliefs today about race, as we are reacting to Dr. Cartwright’s assertions in the article he published 169 years ago.

If we want to avoid that “past generational” folly designation, we must overturn and transform long standing deeply entrenched concepts about ‘races’ in our society.

We can choose to act now or we can leave it to unexpected jarring flash-points and inevitable demographic re-alignments. Better to act now boldly, truthfully, with love and fidelity to scientific facts. By so doing, we would leave a much better world for the next generation.



Sylvanus A AYENI, M.D.

Neurosurgeon. Founder, Pan Africa Children Advocacy Watch(PACAW Inc) www.pacaw.org. Author: RESCUE THYSELF: Change In Sub-Saharan Africa Must Come From Within