Is It Too Late to Say Something About George Floyd?

Curfews are over and the media is finally beginning to cover events besides George Floyd and coronavirus. The real effort to make real and sustainable change is in its infancy. Beyond the headlines and the demonstrations is the time for many of us to pull back from the frontline to reflect, self-examine and educate before making changes and going public with them. Systemic racism is not a news cycle issue—it’s a human rights issue. This is not something we can change easily or overnight. In Obama’s words, “This is a marathon, not a sprint “

How did we get here?

George Floyd’s Death: A World-Wide Catalyst

Most of us know the story by now … On May 25, 2020, George Floyd pleaded for release, gasping “I can’t breathe” as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and pinned Floyd to the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—even past when Floyd lost consciousness—until Floyd died. George Floyd was a 46-year-old black man. Two other officers participated in pinning George Floyd down while a fourth officer stood by and watched, doing nothing to stop Floyd’s death. All four officers were white.

What made George Floyd’s death unusual? Nothing—and that’s exactly the point. He wasn’t rich, or famous or even well-connected. He was a black man going about his daily business whose death became more than another horrific statistic—it became a flashpoint about the importance of human life, that Black Lives Matter.

Black American’s Terrible Triumvirate

Most of us born with lighter skin take our privilege for granted, if we notice it at all. We tell ourselves we worked hard for what we’ve achieved. We don’t realize, or don’t want to admit that the deck is stacked in our favor, but it is.

How is life different for the majority of our darker-skinned brothers and sisters? This is their reality:

  1. Racial Profiling: unsafe on the street, disproportionate incarceration
  2. Compromised Healthcare: less access to health care, more pre-existing conditions
  3. Economic Inequality: continued generational poverty fueled by centuries of unjust policies and practices

 Dying While Black

NPR put this list of other recent police killings of African Americans and what “crimes” they were committing in their final moments

  1. broke up a fight (Eric Garner)
  2. walking in his neighborhood (Ezell Ford)
  3. going to an auto-parts store (Walter Scott )
  4. changing the lock on her home’s door (Michelle Cusseaux)
  5. babysitting her nephew at home (Atatiana Jefferson)
  6. driving home from dinner with his girlfriend (Philando Castile )
  7. eating ice cream in his living room (Botham Jean)
  8. sleeping in her bed (Dominique Clayton) and (Breonna Taylor)

Of course, it’s not just the police. February 23, 2020, a father and son in Brunswick, Georgia chased and shot and killed 25-year-old black jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery’s death is but one recent racially motivated civilian murder…

Justice Is Not Colorblind

African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.—N.A.A.C.P. criminal justice fact sheet 

Even Coronavirus Fatalities Are Not Colorblind

As of May 20,2020, even African Americans they make up roughly 13% of the U.S. population, the CDC data revealed blacks represented nearly 23% of reported U.S. Covid-19 deaths. Ironically, George Floyd managed to survive coronavirus the month before he died of suffocation at the knee of a police officer.

The Wealth Gap: Black Households Are Predominantly Have-Nots

On average, white households have nearly 6.5 times the wealth of black households. A 2020 Brookings Institute report examining the black-white wealth gap pegged the gap at 10 times, and notes “Gaps in wealth between black and white households reveal the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to this nation’s inception. The black-white wealth gap reflects a society that has not and does not afford equality of opportunity to all its citizens.”