"First Steps on the Journey Towards Justice"

Geoffrey Eaton of Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine Reflects on the Murder of George Floyd and What Touro Students Can Do

June 22, 2020
Geoffrey E. Eaton
Geoffrey E. Eaton

Like so many other Americans, I watched in horror the murder of George Floyd, another unarmed Black man, at the hands of the police. The video recordings clearly show Mr. Floyd gasping for air, as Officer Chauvin barreled his knee into his neck for an agonizing 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Not only was this act of brutality done in broad daylight, but it was carried out in the presence of other officers, two of whom are complicit in Floyd’s death by pinning him down. Despite the pleas of on-lookers, at no time did any other law enforcement officer intervene or provide any medical assistance. Shamefully, these officers acted in blatant disregard for Mr. Floyd’s life and ignored his desperate last cry of the words: “I can’t breathe.” These are the exact same words that were uttered by Eric Garner before he was killed in the fatal grip of Officer Panteleo in 2014.

Undeniably, the killing of George Floyd and Eric Garner are not isolated incidents, but a pattern of racism that is deeply rooted in America, the tentacles of which have snuffed out the lives of Breona Taylor in Lexington, Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia. 

Between 1920 and 1938, the NAACP flew a flag outside its offices that read “A Man was Lynched Yesterday” to mark the lynching of Blacks in the U.S. Shamefully, almost a century later, Black people continue to be brutalized and killed.

As First Vice President of the NAACP New York State Conference and President of the NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch I, and other committed civil rights activists, have marched and advocated nationwide, for police reforms. Now, for the first time, we are joined, in our long-standing fight for justice by a diverse group of people around the world. We are White, Asian, Hispanic and Native American; young and old. 

As a result of the ongoing peaceful and international protests, (now former) Officer Chauvin has been indicted and arrested for 2nd Degree Murder and the three other officers are being charged with aiding and abetting in the 2nd Degree. These are only the first steps on the journey towards justice. These officers must be held accountable for their actions and long-overdue changes must be made to policies governing our policing and criminal justice systems. 

As a member of TouroCOM’s Harlem Community Advisory Board, I encourage students, faculty and staff at Touro to join through peaceful protests advocating for legislative policies and comprehensive police reform. Such changes include:

  • improving police training;
  • banning religious and racial profiling;
  • providing funding for racial bias training for law enforcement;
  • incentivizing states to adopt policies banning no-knock warrants;
  • and incentivizing states to adopt policies banning the use of chokeholds and other airway restrictive holds in their use-of-force policies.

I encourage students to address racism as a public health issue. Racism is not limited to policing but extends to education, housing and economic systems which in turn, negatively impact one’s health. This generation of Touro students, who I know are creative, resilient and committed to justice and systemic change, should find impactful ways to work to eradicate racism and health disparities in our communities.

The strength of this movement for positive change reflects the mission of TouroCOM to increase underrepresented minorities in medicine and to train physicians to practice in underserved communities. Because of you, there remains hope that one day, regardless of race, we will all be able to breathe.