On the anniversary of George’s Floyd’s murder
Tuesday marked a year since George Floyd was kneeled upon by a Minneapolis officer for nine-plus minutes, an act of brutality witnessed by millions because of the bravery of one young woman who filmed it. Over and over, as the officer crushed his neck, George Floyd said, “I can’t breathe.” The kneeling officer heard his words; the officers standing around watching and letting this killing happen heard his words; people around heard his words and begged the officer to stop. And his final word, “Mama.” The police officers heard his voice, but it didn’t matter. He was pleading for his life; he was crying for his mother. And it didn’t matter… because he was Black. Imagine if he’d been white.
Why is it that white voices matter and Black voices matter so little, if at all? Why is it that the protests that erupted after George Floyd’s murder were so quickly labeled as violent, incited by Antifa or radicals? Those protestors, white and Black, who filled the streets in support of Black people and against police violence, were surrounded by armed police. They were tear-gassed and beaten for raising their voices in outrage at police brutality. Some violence did occur in pockets of the protests, the destruction of buildings, though not of people. Any violence was and is wrong, but by far the largest numbers of protestors were peaceful, united in the common cause of calling out the racism in our country. Yet, rather than listening to this tremendous vocal surge, Black and white, the media and many people chose to focus on those far smaller incidents of violence and to call these protests anti-American.
Contrast this response and the continued efforts to investigate the Black Lives Matter protests with the response of some citizens and people in power to the insurrection against the Capitol, right down to calling it a regular tourist visit. Where were the armed police during the insurrection? Why was the National Guard not called right away? And why now are there such extreme stands being taken against investigating this insurrection, including the fact that some police officers participated in it, while there continues to be pressure to investigate the Black Lives Matter protests?
And why now are state after state passing laws that will make it harder for certain people to vote, cloaking their actions with the false notion of fraud in the 2020 election, fraud that never happened? Why are some states considering tightening the restrictions on protesting? There is only one reason these voting restrictions and efforts to stop protesting are happening now, and that is to silence Black and brown voices, any voices of dissent.
In Delaware, however, an important piece of legislation that honors Black voices was passed by both houses. HB 198 requires that Black history be taught in all Delaware schools, 1st grade through 12th. This is an opportunity for the Black voices from the past to the present to finally be heard in their greater fullness. A more diverse and historically true curriculum will benefit all students. It will provide opportunities for students and adults to dive not only into the dark and deeply flawed aspects of our history but also into the beauty and richness of it. When we read the stories, listen to the music, learn about the enormous contributions Black Americans have made to our country, their abiding belief in and hope for our country, despite its treatment of them, and their extraordinary grace and strength, all of us become wiser, more appreciative of one another, and also humbler.
George Floyd’s murder, along with all the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of the police, was a visual and oral example of the very worst of our inhumanity. So too are the efforts being made in numbers of states now to broaden anti-protest laws. ACLU spokespeople from many of these states have said that the goal of these new laws is to “silence dissent and create fear (in those )who want to take to the streets to march for justice. (Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU, Florida). We cannot continue this way and pretend to be a land offering democracy to all, a shining example to other nations. But, even more critical than our democracy, a political construct, is our humanity, a moral imperative. That we cannot choose to forgo. We have ignored Black voices far too long. Now, let them ring.