'This is a national moment': USC professor discusses impact of George Floyd protests

As Black Lives Matter marches continue nationwide, USC professor Manuel Pastor explains how today's peace marches could create positive change.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Protests against police brutality and racial injustice have spread across the country and to other parts of the world after the death of George Floyd.

Professor Manuel Pastor, director of USC's program for environmental and regional equity, joined ABC7 via Skype to discuss the Black Lives Matter peace marches.

Are you seeing positive changes already as a result of the protests?

"This has been quite a momentous time in contemporary American history," said Pastor.

"I think what we've seen is a major shift in U.S. consciousness around both policing and the sort of brutality that's often been involved in contemporary policing and the racist character of it, but even more deeply that the policing is really just a tip of a racist iceberg that has to do with economic inequality, educational inequality and environmental inequality," he added.

Pastor says the amount and diversity of people protesting, along with the mayor suggesting police budget cuts, points to a fundamental moment.

WATCH: Protesters share passionate speech on racial inequality, reasons for joining SoCal protests

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Two protesters shared with ABC7 a passionate speech about racial inequality in America and their reasons for joining Sunday's protests over the in-custody death of George Floyd.

What is your long-term advice for creating a more equitable social justice system?

"I think we need to examine the ways in which anti-black racism has resulted in less assets for African Americans, less educational opportunities for African Americans, over-policing and over-incarceration in those communities," said Pastor.

"My advice is for us to not lose sight of the fact that this is a moment in which an entire system of systemic inequality is being revealed, and we need to begin to tackle it with our hearts and with our heads," he said.

You've written about the 1992 L.A. riots. There are some similarities between then and now, but how does this feel different?

"The Los Angeles uprising actually signaled the way in which there was rage about police behavior in communities, but also the sort of sense of economic desperation and economic dislocation," said Pastor.

Pastor said the difference between the two moments is the 1992 L.A. riots did not have the same national ripple effect as George Floyd's death.

"This is a national moment. Everyone saw the nine minutes of George Floyd being murdered on the streets of Minneapolis, and it's seared in peoples' consciousness in a way that's caused a lot of people, who have not normally thought about race and racism, to really begin to think about white supremacy, to think about racism and to think about what their role is in playing some positive change going forward."

Pastor says the Black Lives Matter protests is a national moment similar to the Selma marches that eventually helped to trigger the Voting Rights Act.

Watch the full interview in the video above.
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