Following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, protests against racist police violence flooded the streets of every borough in New York City, and continue to this day. Our photographers have been out documenting the historic moment, which is part of a larger national, youth-driven movement working to defund the police and end systemic racism. With hundreds of photos, we asked New York City teens to choose one that resonated with them, and write about it. Below is a piece from 17-year-old Michaela Wang, a student at Newark Academy.

This Is Not New: The History Of Police Brutality

The year 2020 started with a storm — first the coronavirus pandemic hit, exacerbating class divides and an inadequate healthcare system. Then came the deaths of more Black Americans at the hands of police officers. The nation is as polarized as ever, and as supporters of equality, we don’t sit under our roofs and wait for the storm to die down. We walk into it.

At the end of May, the community united in the city's streets to fight for Black lives. The corrupt American police system is killing innocent Black people, and the pleas to the government to defund the police are growing louder. That chant now ringing out amongst the others — "I can’t breathe," "Say their names,” "No Justice, No Peace." These cries come from a familiar anger that has rung through our streets and the hearts of Black America forever.

Since the birth of America’s civil service systems, institutions intended to protect us have been marred by racism. In fact, policing was formed to protect Anglo-Saxons from the perceived misbehavior of minorities. In the early 1700s, New England and Midwestern regions appointed Indian Constables to police Native Americans, while the Southern colony of Carolina officiated the nation's first slave patrol. Patrols maintained the social hierarchy — slaves as property, Native Americans as primitive — by assisting the elite in violent punishments we see today. It is imperative to acknowledge that policing systems were a vehicle for white supremacy and the marginalization of minority groups.

Because northern cities wanted to tighten their control on readily booming populations in the 1830s and ‘40s, modern policing evolved into an organized institution. The first American police department was established in Boston in 1838, which violently targeted European immigrants. Amid the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, Black Americans who fled the horrors of the Jim Crow South also became the victims of punitive policing.

However, it wasn’t until widespread media that radio show hosts, photographers, and journalists were able to capture the horrors of police brutality. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Black newspapers and radio hosts exposed the police’s violent tactics to suppress Black civil rights protests, such as trained police dogs, fire hoses, tear gas, and baseball bats studded with nails. Most infamous is a photograph at the Birmingham Campaign — a peaceful protest resisting the city’s segregation system — where a police dog’s teeth rip through the jacket sleeves and khakis of protesters.

Ultimately, social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and their live streaming and video-sharing features forced Americans to actualize the violent yet commonday injustices Black people face. In 1991, video footage captured the brutal beating of Rodney King. Diamond Reynolds live streamed the aftermath of the fatal shooting of her fiance, Philando Castile, on Facebook Live. This horror is not new. This horror is the everyday for Black Americans.

On May 31st, as George Floyd’s neck was pressed to the hot concrete ground in Minneapolis, a video was being taken and disseminated through millions of reposts. In response, celebrities, allies, our neighbors, and our relatives underwent a rude awakening — a rude awakening that should’ve struck them in the previous century.

The severe hailstorm was well-forecasted. Policing systems have forever been weaponized against minority groups to galvanize white supremacist agendas. To attack systemic racism is to acknowledge history and our own ignorance of it: Black lives have suffered injustice since the inception of our country. The change we bled for yesterday is the change we die for today.