The systemic racism black Americans face, explained in 9 charts

The current protests — and the anger that fuels them — did not spring up out of nowhere. They are a cry of pain from a raw nerve that has always afflicted the United States, one that was all too often ignored.

That nerve had a number of causes, and a number of things exacerbating it: biased and violent policing, of course, but also lingering effects of segregation affecting education, job opportunities, and health; a multi-tiered wage system that gives white men greater financial rewards than others, most of all black women; a criminal justice system that is punitive if you are black but able to find forgiveness, mercy, and understanding if you are white; the sense that not just one’s labor but one’s life is less valuable than those of other citizens only because of the color of their skin.

People marching in the streets have had enough of this injustice. They are demanding Americans no longer allow themselves to be policed as they have been. They are pulling down memorials to traitorous men who would still have them enslaved. They are calling for lynching to be made a federal crime. They want equal pay; they want political change. They want people to listen carefully, thoughtfully, and to be willing to change their hearts and behavior.

George Floyd’s body is brought by horse-drawn carriage into the Houston Memorial Gardens Cemetery for burial on June 9, in Pearland, Texas.
 Mario Tama/Getty Images

A historic number of Americans are participating in these protests: According to the Pew Research Center, 6 percent of American adults have taken to the streets in recent weeks, a figure that translates to about 17 million people. Millions more who did not go out want to see real change, too. Recent data shows this — and how the country has reached this point — in the nine charts below.

Even before the protests, black people had far less trust in police

The recent spate of police killings and well-documented police violence at largely peaceful protests — from students being dragged from a car in Atlanta, Georgia, to a 75-year-old man being pushed to the ground and left bleeding in Buffalo, New York — appear to have led Americans to have an increasingly negative view of police, according to a Democracy Fund/UCLA Nationscape poll of more than 6,000 Americans taken from May 28 to June 3.

Pollsters found that the percentage of Americans with an unfavorable impression of police rose from 18 percent in their May 21-27 survey to 31 percent in its May 28-June 3 poll. The polling for both weeks had a 2.2 percentage point margin of error, meaning either number could be 2.2 percentage points higher or lower than was officially recorded.

Regardless, that increase suggests the American public’s perception of law enforcement has begun to more closely mirror the sentiment of black Americans, who even before the recent protests and killings expressed notable skepticism about police.

For instance, in a Pew Research Center study conducted from April 20 to 26 — about a month before George Floyd was killed — 10,139 American adults were asked for their thoughts on police, and researchers received starkly different answers based on ethnicity.

Most Americans have high confidence in police, the study found — except for black Americans. With a 1.5 percentage point margin of error, 56 percent of black Americans said they had a great deal or fair amount of confidence in police, compared to the 78 percent of white Americans who said the same. And confidence was even lower among young black Americans — 49 percent said they had a great or fair amount of confidence in police.

Some of that lack of confidence appears to come from a belief that police officers are unethical — 48 percent of black Americans see officers’ ethical standards as being low or very low, Pew found.

Many other polls have also captured this lack of trust — for instance, a Washington Post/Ipsos poll taken from January 2 to 8 of 1,088 black Americans (with a 3.5 percentage point margin of error) found that 83 percent said they didn’t trust police “to treat people of all races equally.” Only 14 percent said they did trust police to do so.

The situation has not improved.

A recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll, taken May 29 and 30 — four days after Floyd was killed — of 1,060 US adults (with a 4.3 percentage point margin of error) found that 94 percent of black Americans believe the criminal justice system treats white Americans better. The same poll found that 91 percent of black Americans don’t believe white and black people receive equal treatment from the police. A Monmouth University study (conducted from May 29 to June 1, of 759 US adults, with a 3.6 percentage point margin of error) found that 87 percent of black Americans believe police are more likely to use excessive force against black people.

More recent work from Pew, a survey conducted from June 4 to 10 of 9,654 US adults, with a 1.5 percentage point margin of error, found that the majority of black men — 64 percent — say they have been stopped unfairly by police.

The sum of all these studies is that there just isn’t trust in police among black Americans — certainly not to the degree there is among white Americans. And one important reason for that is fear: of violence, of unfair treatment, of death.

Black Americans’ lack of trust in law enforcement is fueled by tension and fear

This general lack of trust has long been undergirded by a pervasive tension, one illustrated in video broadcast on Los Angeles’s Fox 11, in which police responding to property seizures at black businesses arrived at the scene and began to detain the business owners rather than those in breach of the law.

It’s a tension that lies in unpredictability — in knowing that any interaction with police can quickly escalate into an unfair, traumatic, and even life-ending event. It’s why Ta-Nahisi Coates recently told Vox’s Ezra Klein he was leery of calling the police when there were fights in his family’s neighborhood. Perhaps the police would come and make peace. But perhaps they would detain the wrong people, as happened in Los Angeles, or even pursue a course of action that left someone dead, as was the case with George Floyd.

The tension created by this uncertainty was reflected in the May 29-30 YouGov survey, which found that the sight of a police officer makes 60 percent of black Americans feel “less secure.” About one-third — 22 percent — of white Americans said the same, while 32 percent of white Americans said the sight of an officer makes them feel more secure, a sentiment shared by only 5 percent of black Americans.

Part of the reason for this is the specter of death police carry for black Americans. A much-cited study by researchers at Rutgers University, the University of Michigan, and Washington University in St. Louis, explained by Vox’s Dylan Scott, found that black men have a 1-in-1,000 chance of being killed by police. For no black American is that statistic abstract. Nor is it, increasingly, for other Americans: Since Floyd’s death, the public has learned of the killings of Javier AmblerMaurice GordonManuel EllisTony McDadeMomodou Lamin SisayRayshard Brooks, and many others.

There is also fear not just over killing but over racially motivated harassment and detention. The YouGov work found that 43 percent of black Americans say they have been treated unfairly by police, and the Monmouth study found that 44 percent of black Americans felt they or a family member had been harassed by police, compared to 24 percent of white Americans who said the same.

Monmouth’s study also found the majority of black Americans — 87 percent — believe that police are more likely to use excessive force against black people, a sentiment white Americans agreed with, though not by an overwhelming margin; 49 percent of white Americans said police were more likely to use excessive force against black people, while 39 percent felt the use of force wasn’t tied to race.

In addition to the fear, tension, and uncertainty comes a sort of pessimistic cynicism — the sense that if one is the victim of police violence or misconduct, nothing will happen. There was surprise over the speed at which Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who killed Floyd, was arrested: just four days after Floyd was killed. Arrests of those officers who kill rarely come that quickly, if at all — it took nearly a month for the Baltimore officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death, and more than four years for former St. Louis officer Jason Stockley to be arrested for killing Anthony Lamar Smith.

An analysis by the advocacy group Mapping Police Violence found that 99 percent of police killings from 2014 to 2019 did not result in officers being charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime. And that is for those who kill — a situation that would seem to leave little recourse for those who’ve suffered excessive force or were arbitrarily detained.

Black Americans feel this keenly, according to YouGov’s polling. When asked whether police are usually held accountable for misconduct, 82 percent of black respondents said no, compared to the 52 percent of white people, 48 percent of Latinx respondents, and 63 percent of those of other ethnicities who said the same.

And Monmouth’s polling suggests black Americans are forced to face their anxieties and fears around policing more often that other Americans — and in stressful situations. The university’s pollsters asked if an officer had ever kept respondents (or their families) safe in a “dangerous situation.” Across ethnicities, most said police had not; but 41 percent of black Americans said they’d been protected by police, compared to 33 percent of white Americans — a number that, coupled with the survey’s other findings, would seem to suggest that being protected by police has not outweighed the negative perceptions black Americans have of police due to concerns about being victims of violence or unfair treatment.

Black Americans face systemic racism. Police are only a part of that.

There is a deep and multifaceted problem with how police interact with black Americans — but the issues they face, and those the protests concern, go beyond law enforcement: They are systemic, involving government, health, and economics.

Polling reflects this.

An Axios/Ipsos poll taken from May 29 to June 1 of 1,033 American adults (with a 3.1-3.4 percentage point margin of error) found only 18 percent of black Americans trust the federal government to work for their interests; 67 percent feel Congress is doing a bad job, according to Monmouth’s polling.

Results like these come amid a pandemic that has disproportionately affected black, Latinx, and Native Americans — one that the federal government, particularly the executive branch, has struggled to respond to.

Through the end of May, black Americans were hospitalized for Covid-19 at 4.5 times the rate of white Americans, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (adjusted to account for differences in age distributions among each ethnic population). While the CDC’s data set is not yet complete — it has ethnicity information for about 79.9 percent of cases — current numbers show only Native Americans have been hospitalized at rates greater than black Americans.

Black Americans face a disproportionately higher rate of hospitalizations, as well as a disproportionately higher rate of death. While black Americans make up about 13 percent of the US population, the CDC estimates they account for 23 percent of all Covid-19 deaths, as of June 3. White Americans, on the other hand, make up about 76 percent of the US population, but account for 53.2 percent of coronavirus deaths, according to the CDC.

Analysis by the nonpartisan study group APM Research Lab of all coronavirus deaths in 43 US states and Washington, DC, found that more than 25,028 black Americans died of Covid-19 before June 9 — meaning one in 1,625 black Americans has died of the disease. By comparison, one in 3,800 white Americans has died. According to the group’s analysis, if black Americans died of Covid-19 at the same rate as white Americans, more than 14,000 black people who died after being infected by the coronavirus would be alive today.

Less severe cases also disproportionately affect black Americans. Analyzing data collected through June 9, the CDC found that black people make up 22.1 percent of all US coronavirus cases. Black Americans are more likely to know someone who has died of Covid-19 than white Americans — an analysis by the NORC Centers for Public Affairs Research found that 11 percent of black Americans have had a family member or close friend die of the disease, compared to 4 percent of white Americans.

The AP’s Kat Stafford and Hannah Fingerhut note that this disparity is even greater in cities and states that faced particularly high case counts, like Birmingham, Alabama, where 15 percent of black adults had a close friend or family member die, compared to 2 percent of white adults.

Regardless of the severity or outcome, Covid-19 represents a health and economic burden for many — particularly black Americans.

While coronavirus testing is usually free, any hospitalizations or emergency room visits related to coronavirus care are not. Covid-19-related hospital stays for an insured person could exceed $1,300, with some patients having to pay more than $20,000, according to research by the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation. An analysis from FAIR Health, a nonprofit focused on the cost of care, found that those without insurance — as about 11.5 percent of black Americans were in 2018 — can expect to pay between $42,486 and $74,310.

End-of-life services are also very expensive, with the National Funeral Directors Association putting the median cost of a funeral in 2019 at $7,640.

Unexpected costs like these would be financially ruinous for most Americans at the best of times. A SSRS/Bankrate poll conducted in January (with a 3.39 percent margin of error) found that 59 percent of Americans would be unable to cover a $1,000 emergency, for instance. And even if one has a mild case of Covid-19, the need to quarantine can have taxing financial consequences.

All these costs come as black Americans — who, generally, have always been less secure financially than white Americans — are in a more precarious financial situation than ever.

Black Americans are underpaid and financially disadvantaged

The Covid-19 pandemic comes amid the larger backdrop of a racial income and wealth gap.

Ipsos’s polling found that 33 percent of black Americans said they are in dire financial straits at the moment, nearly double the number of white Americans who reported the same — 18 percent.

Pew polling has captured a similar struggle, and one that is ongoing, finding that 46 percent of black Americans struggle to pay their bills in a typical month and that 48 percent reported having difficulties in April. The number of black Americans found to have bill difficulties was nearly double the number of Latinx Americans — 28 percent — and 2.3 times the number of white Americans, at 20 percent.

Some of this disparity stems from the fact that there are gross inequalities in pay by ethnicity. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in the first quarter of 2020, the median pay for a black male worker between the ages of 25 and 54 was $891 per week; for a Latino man of the same age, it was $796 a week. Meanwhile, a white man of the same age averaged $1,128 per week. Women of all three racial groups made less than the average white man, with white women making $906, black women making $767, and Latina women making $701.

This difference that extends to those classified as essential workers — a group that, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), is about 15 percent black. And it is one that is particularly evident in high risk essential jobs like health care. EPI’s work found that a white health care worker’s median hourly wages were $7.96 more than a black health care worker’s.

The pay gaps are a reminder that being an essential worker was not enough for equal pay in normal times, and equal pay still has not appeared as these jobs became potentially life-threatening — and potentially resource-draining, again, given the costs of care and lost wages caused by infection. Overall, these wage gaps are indicative of a poor economic reality that black Americans have had to endure for centuries, and that has been a source of stress, with millions under constant concern about paying their bills.

The economy is — and always has been — worse for black Americans

Much has been made of the better-than-expected jobs report released at the beginning of June — after record contractions, the Department of Labor reported that the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May.

But while it is good news that some Americans got their jobs back, that good news didn’t reflect everybody, particularly black Americans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, black unemployment increased slightly from April to May, up 0.1 percentage points (87,000 people), as did Asian American unemployment, which rose 0.5 percent (55,000 people).

Much of the growth in May was driven instead by increases in white employment, which increased by 2 million; Latinx Americans accounted for most of the other new jobs — 286,000.

Black Americans’ exclusion from economic gains is nothing new. In January, when the unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, the black unemployment rate was 6 percent; there were about 5.9 million unemployed people, 1.2 million — or 21 percent — of whom were black. There was a similar disparity between the general unemployment and black unemployment rates in June 2019 of 2.3 percentage points; 2.5 percentage points in June 2018; 3.7 percentage points in June 2008; and in the first half of 1988, 6.8 percent.

All this suggests that even once the economy returns to normal, it will still be a poor economy for black workers. And if the recession triggered by the pandemic mirrors the Great Recession, unemployment numbers for black Americans won’t return to that 6 percent level anytime soon. As an analysis by American Progress’s Christian E. Weller notes, “The decline in prime-age employment rates associated with the Great Recession started two months sooner for African Americans than whites and lasted 15 months longer than it did for white workers.”

23 Comments on this post.
  • do
    26 June 2020 at 3:57 pm
    Leave a Reply

    This is all B.S. Why do blacks resist the police? Why do they commit more crimes that will draw police attention? Why do the Japanese have little problem integrating? After all we fought a particularly brutal war with them in the 1940s. Could it be culture rather than color? The Japanese value hard work, family, and education. Do you reckon that if the blacks did this they would have a much easier time assimilating? Don’t give me this crap about racism.

  • Edith J. Williams
    26 June 2020 at 4:01 pm
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    Damned fine article! You put into words all the thoughts and feelings I have roiling through my mind, lately and gave excellent documentation as well! Outstanding. Count me as a fan.

  • bob
    26 June 2020 at 4:13 pm
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    Blacks will always be slaves as long as they continue to allow left wing Democrats to tell them that slavery never ended and is still holding them back today. Being a slave in one’s mind is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

  • Joseph Gonzales
    26 June 2020 at 4:13 pm
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    Why do I hear a lot of BooHooing in the background?

  • florida bob
    26 June 2020 at 4:13 pm
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    This is absolute bullshit !!!!!! If they weren’t criminals they would not be arrested. Cops lock them up and the liberal judges let them out. How many single mamas do we here about all the time because black daddies don’t stick around to support them. They get more welfare for more kids. Collect welfare and sell drugs is what they do. They have the same opportunities that we do and actually get special treatment. The civil war is coming. If they do away with the police that means we can shoot and not get arrested. Right ?

    • Ann
      30 June 2020 at 7:48 pm
      Leave a Reply

      Mr. Johnson. I don’t know who those people were but if I could repent for them I would. It sounds like they were of my parents ilk. All my life I corrected them and hoped they would change. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive. But I’m not in your shoes and can understand you not wanting to. If I can respond to Fla. Bob; it’s not the Black family’s fault what you see. It’s the politicians who forced the Black communities into this Great Society.

  • RoberT
    26 June 2020 at 4:13 pm
    Leave a Reply

    You guys better forget the polls, they only measure the effectiveness of a propaganda effort. Look into the true reason black America is suffering. You will find the answer is stunning.
    Google Thomas Sowell on systemic racism, and Dave Rubin interview with a man named Coleman, finally look into the work of communists since the 30’s.
    You will find a directed attack on Black America. Much the same way they divided Central Americans in the 70’s and 80’s.
    You guys need to get out more and not buy the lie.

  • Nolan
    26 June 2020 at 4:23 pm
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    Sounds like a lot of the Democratic Koolaid to me !

  • Joe
    26 June 2020 at 4:26 pm
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    This is the whole history of man. Conflict. There is nothing that we can do to change that. The black race is exactly what they are. They do not stay in school. They do not work. They do not care to learn how to speak well. However, they still want the same pay. the same money. And they think it is always someone’s else’s fault.

  • Bill
    26 June 2020 at 4:35 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Systemic Racism is a LIE!!!!!! This article is a spoonful of deception. I’m unsubscribing

  • Dave Barclay
    26 June 2020 at 4:35 pm
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    Informative, but where are the charts?

  • Pilot
    26 June 2020 at 5:25 pm
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    When I was growing up 50 years ago, my cousin (White) acted like an a****** and caught the attention of the police. He was visited by the police regularly and pulled over just to see what he we was doing because of his history. Mom and grandma claimed “He’s a good boy” all the time, not the truth. They were as white could be. Multiple kids with multiple moms, in and out of jail. Took years for him to figure out HE was the problem. Why was he “harassed” by the police? Because HE draw their attention by his own actions!

  • Stephanie Fields
    26 June 2020 at 5:35 pm
    Leave a Reply

    I Trust colleges and polls like i trust the media. Not at all

  • 5StarTexan
    26 June 2020 at 7:22 pm
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    Woe! The writer of this article is really brainwashed and found plenty of leftist brainwashing articles and liberal professors statistics to back of the lies. As a man thinketh in his heart; so is he.

  • Leon A Johnson
    27 June 2020 at 12:21 am
    Leave a Reply

    As a black American myself, I faced force busing, Mobbs of white people, with clubs, police aiming guns at me without cause and stating they would pkut a gun in my hand if they killed me. And all because of race. I nevercommited a crime nor been in jail. So there is a problem, but the black lives matter movement is not the answer. So it’s not money it’s hate, and racism. People need justice and equality.

    • Hopeful One
      13 July 2020 at 5:02 pm
      Leave a Reply

      Leon, forced busing was a result of a Supreme Court that has run amuck. They are the mouth of the sewer in Washington. The Court run busing was run by the Court and they had no authority to do it.

      Racism will always exist in a country, especially when that country turns from God. The real issue of the greater evil is the moral rot and tyranny from govt. authorities. BLM wants more tyranny and oppression, but they are using racism to garner bodies to support their communist movement. Dems use racism all the time as a smoke screen to cover the real tyrannical things they are doing to control people. Note the governors and mayors in Democrat held cities and states. That is where all the problems arise. The failure to enforce the law properly and allow rioters to have their way is disgraceful. That had nothing to do with supporting black lives, as more black have been killed in this rioting than anyone else. It’s just a smokescreen as they lock down their city and state under tyrannical rules. Keep in mind that any past pandemic isolated the sick, but never the healthy. They wanted the economy to crash so they can boot out Trump. They don’t care who suffers. It’s about power and control and has absolutely nothing to do with race or justice.

      It was surely horrible to be treated wrongfully by some policemen, but many whites are also treated badly. It is not just race. More whites are killed wrongfully than blacks by far. That problem cannot be solved overnight, but note how Dems have blocked Senator Scott’s bill for good changes in police departments. They relish in the chaos and are mostly antichrist, evil liars. Quite a few Repubs are with them.

      Look beyond the smokescreen. I remember working at night on a business after hours. Two detectives came in with drawn guns, as I had inadvertently tripped an alarm. I had to show them I had the authority to be there.

  • Nancy Mastin
    27 June 2020 at 7:10 am
    Leave a Reply

    This article lost my interest because it only reported stats with no balancing data. Such as blacks make less than whites in healthcare jobs. Well, is that for equal work and education? It is interesting that Hispanics make less across the board but fair better. The whole premise of the article is color and not character based. I would suggest most of the inequality is based on other factors than color of skin.

  • Mike
    27 June 2020 at 4:21 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Well,more blacks per percentage get infected, and or die.mmmmm. what do White’s have to do with it? Apparently the virus is racist.

  • Mike
    27 June 2020 at 4:33 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Leon. I worked in black area’s in town for many years. I am white and saw what police do. Drug dens,cops go in and leave no one arrested. Tenants wanted it taken care of BUT city didn’t care or even notice.
    Saw the police hassle people for no reason. I would say something they would threaten with arrest.
    Be safe

    28 June 2020 at 3:50 pm
    Leave a Reply

    What the “progressive “left (collectivists, really) have done over the last several years is well known. What has been missing in the conversation is the “why” , the objective, of their behavior. The Frankfurt School was a group of elite intellectuals (these are the people who, even today, believe they know more than we average citizens, and as such should be in control of society.) They believe they alone should control the means of production and distribution as well as all others aspects of society. If you think this sounds like Marxism, you’d be right! After moving from Europe to New York, this group has continued to infect this poisonous thinking into weaker minded people. They created a long range plan to realize their goal and it included gaining control of the major pillars of society: 1. Education ( they seem to have succeeded-no room for free speech or independent thought there anymore ); 2. Cultural forces such as film, music and technologies not yet invented (Hollywood has been almost completely co-opted-have you seen any award show lately?); 3. the third is the News Media (which is the way they can control the flow of information to the public and control the dialog (the Senate Juduciary hearing is exhibit one). 4. Additionally they believe that God must be eliminated from the conversation and Secularism should become the predominant religion. 5. They must destroy our history to remove our moral anchors. With the election of Trump, these Progressives had their long term plan (Globalism) grossly interrupted. With the loss of a Supreme Court that could further their agenda, their plan completely exploded. A court that interprets laws strictly and will not legislate from the bench is their worst nightmare, followed only slightly by an educated population that votes.
    If you love the United States of America, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which support the continuation of our grand experiment of self governance and this Constitutional Republic, you cannot sit on the sidelines November 3rd. Please Vote to send these progressive “Democratic Socialists” a message. Not in this Country and not in our lifetime!

  • George Horvat
    28 June 2020 at 4:13 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Seems to me this situation has existed for a long time. An eight year presidency of a black man didn’t change that did it? Why? It’s really quite simple. It’s all about politics and power. The Socialist Democratic party needs the downtrodden in order to stay in power. That’s because if this situation is fixed they no longer can promise to do something about the situation. If they can’t do that, then they have no cause to champion and no votes will be coming their way.The Republicans aren’t that much better and that’s why President Trump has so many enemies in both parties.He’s an outsider who really wan’ts to change things. Black people have to wake up and recognise who is really going to help them and stop wasting their votes on promises that were never intended to be kept.

  • irene mcvey
    28 June 2020 at 11:25 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Millions of black citizens disagree. The problem that black citizens have are in cities that are run by Democrats, many of them colored. As one activist says, we just keep voting them in. As for mobs with clubs. They are also Democrats. Black Lives Matter is a racist hate group. Also Democrats bought off black people by putting them on welfare. That destroyed the black family. Black young men are full of rage because there are no male role models in the home. Before welfare the black family was intact. Martin Luther King was a Republican. He was murdered by a Democrat. Lincoln was also murdered by a Democrat. I would like Leon to name the people that hate him. It certainly is not conservatives. Donald Trump has done more to help black people than any president save Abraham Lincoln.

  • Vernon
    29 June 2020 at 6:15 am
    Leave a Reply

    Data can be manipulated to look like a beautiful rose or a dead maggot, this one is more like what you would find in the cow pasture. When stopped by the police do as they ask and there will be no problem.
    George Floyd resisted arrest.

  • Leave a Reply

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