Today marks the one-year anniversary of George Floyd's murder by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
A video, bravely shot by a traumatized 17-year-old girl, captured Floyd’s last breath and became symbolic of the treatment too many Black people encounter during interactions with police.
Somehow, this incident was different. Floyd’s murder sparked months of protests nationwide, focusing on police brutality and demands for police reform and accountability, with the focus on social injustice.
Words such as “equality,” “anti-racism,” “racial reckoning,” “systemic racism,” and “racial disparities” have seeped into our daily lexicon. The tragic event also fueled a growing discourse about racism in our schools, especially over the teaching curriculum.
Floyd’s murder won’t be forgotten anytime soon, but as we reflect on the past year, has America experienced any meaningful change in how she addresses racial or ethnic inequality? Here are one man’s observations:
More people are speaking out about everyday racism and discrimination. The fight for equality and justice has gained more support, especially in white communities.
Justice has been served in the Floyd case. Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder, and he and three other officers face additional federal charges.
Police departments have implemented changes. Minnesota police departments have banned chokeholds and neck restraints. Louisville, Kentucky has scrapped no-knock warrants like the one that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor. New York City is now diverting funds from police departments to social services.
Statues and monuments linked to slavery are falling.
Over a million dollars has been donated to the George Floyd Memorial Fund to help inform, unite, and engage communities in the fight against racism.
Major corporations have donated thousands of dollars across organizations focused on combating racial injustice. Corporate leaders promise to take a hard look at their companies’ histories and current practices to determine what changes can be made to address structural racism.
Television shows containing “racially insensitive” or inappropriate characters are being removed from streaming services.
Books have been pulled from shelves, and consumer products have been rebranded.
Schools have taken some books out of the school curriculum. Administrators will reassess what our children are learning, how history should be taught, and what books and authors should be highlighted.
States have passed bills to address systemic racism in schools. Some have even outlawed the use of Native American mascots for school teams.
The House has passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, designed to “hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct in court, improve transparency through date collection, and reform police training and policies.” I am dubious that this legislation will pass in the Senate.
Has there been change? Yes. Significant change? No.
The eleven-point list above suggests some progress, but more must be done. Race relations remain intense, especially after January 6, when an insurrection at the Capitol (and the Republican response) demonstrated the depth of white supremacist influence in American politics.
The Black community is still targeted, police abuse of minority citizens still happens, and accountability is still lacking. America must re-engage with the passion she felt a year ago; we the people must keep pushing for equal justice. We must make our collective voices heard.
Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before we mourn the next victim, and the next, and the next . . .