During a Sunday interview on CBS News’ Face the Nation, Attorney General William Barr, a close ally of Donald Trump, pushed back against the suggestion that the United States law enforcement is “systemically racist,” Breitbart reported.
“I think there’s racism in the United States still but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Barr said.
Nevertheless, Barr claimed to understand African American distrust of law enforcement due to the country’s history. He also acknowledged that U.S. institutions “were explicitly racist” for the majority of the country’s history.
“Since the 1960s, I think we’ve been in a phase of reforming our institutions and making sure that they’re in sync with our laws and aren’t fighting a rearguard action to impose inequities.”
When pressed on the effectiveness of reform, Barr stressed the difficulty of the process but claimed he believes it is “working.”
“I think one of the best examples is the military,” Barr said.
“The military used to be explicitly racist institution. And now I think it’s in the vanguard of- of bringing the races together and providing equal opportunity. I think law enforcement has been going through the same process.”
According to Barr, the majority of police officers are “civic minded people” who work to serve the public “bravely” and “righteously.”
Barr’s comments come as protests continue across the United States — and around the world — after George Floyd’s death in the custody of Minneapolis police. Floyd, who was an African American, died after being subdued by white officer Derek Chauvin despite his cries for help. The incident has sparked calls for reform in law enforcement, as many social media reports spotlight continued police brutality amid the protests.
In a piece for USA Today, Wenei Philimon explored the history of racism in the U.S. police system. Jennifer Cobbina, a criminal justice professor at Michigan State University, spoke about the purportedly long history of racism in American police departments. According to Cobbina, people often take racism as a “contemporary issue” but don’t understand that incidents like Floyd’s death are part of a “legacy of injustice.”
Sally Hadden, a history professor at Western Michigan University, noted that policing used to revolve around race via slave patrols that would hunt down runaway slaves and prevent rebellion.
Even after the abolition of slavery in 1865, USA Today claims that African Americans were “heavily policed” by law enforcement — especially in regions of the country with laws that restricted African American behavior, such as property ownership.