|WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-6) delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
As Prepared for Delivery
“The motto of my home state of South Carolina is dum spiro spero, ‘while I breathe, I hope.’ Today, as the House prepares to vote on the historic George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, those words take on a new and special meaning for me.
“In this moment, the haunting words of this legislation’s namesake – ‘I can’t breathe’ – echo in the streets daily. In Mr. Floyd’s case, his breath was literally being snuffed out as he cried out for his dead mother. But for so many Blacks in our country today, ‘I can’t breathe’ is just another way of saying ‘I have no hope.’
“Today this august body is going to pass a piece of legislation that will begin the process of restoring hope. Hope to many whose ancestors fought for centuries to be included in the nation’s vision of, ‘liberty and justice for all.’
“This legislation gives us an opportunity to live up to what Alexis de Tocqueville observed about America’s greatness. He wrote, ‘America is not great because it is more enlightened than any other nation, but rather because it has always been able to repair its faults.’
“Today we are seeking to repair some faults in our policing system, a policing system whose foundation was built upon two pillars of experiences; one by a group of Americans who came to America of their own free will, in search of freedom. The other by a group of Americans who came to America against their will and were enslaved for 244 years. Vestiges of that system are still evident in today’s law enforcement culture. Chokeholds on black arrestees, no-knock entries into black residences, militarized police forces in black communities, and qualified immunity are all intended to preserve rather than serve, intended to protect perpetrators of excessive users of force rather than improve conditions and communities.
“Today, House Democrats and I hope some of our Republican colleagues will say by their votes, enough is enough, that it is time to apply the greatness of America equitably to all our citizens. But we cannot stop here. Recent occurrences have exposed and shone a spotlight on inequities in our health care system, inadequacies in our educational system, and inappropriateness in our electoral system. ‘Liberty and justice for all’ remains a deferred dream for far too many.
“Job losses, challenges in health care, eviction threats; people are trying to catch their breath. If they can’t breathe, they can’t hope. As a proud South Carolinian, I believe in and try to live by that principle, ‘while I breathe, I hope.’ And with the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, we will all breathe a little freer and gain a little more hope.”