Solidarity, Protests, and Hashtags: What Now?
In the weeks after the killing of George Floyd, millions of people marched and protested in the streets. It was a world-wide awakening, with people from all walks of life demanding justice and change. National news doesn’t speak on it anymore, protests are few, hashtags are infrequent, and there’s a heartbreaking truth: The world is returning to business as usual.
It’s just been over 90 days since we witnessed officer Derek Chauvin kneel on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, until he died. And just this weekend, Chauvin had the unmitigated gall to ask a judge to dismiss the murder charges against him.
Truth is, police killings have not ceased; they are still happening, probably even more often. Rayshard Brooks was shot by police in the back and killed. Jacob Blake was shot by police 7 times in the back, as he tried to walk to his car. And there is still no justice for Breonna Taylor or Elijah McClain.
As we watch these murders take place on television and our smartphones, we are affected deeply beyond comprehension. It is emotionally exhausted. We start to ask if someone we love will be next. We have to carry this heavy burden around in our homes, in our communities, at work, and have to somehow find the strength to keep going.
The videos are difficult to watch; feelings of anger, frustration, and fear take over. Studies show within 75% of black people who are stopped by the police, almost 80% felt it was race-related.
What has happened since the George Floyd murder? Police accountability bills have been introduced in Congress. Americans are discussing what defunding law enforcement actually means. Corporations are recognizing Juneteenth. Mississippi is changing its flag. Tributes to Confederates and others who espoused hate are falling. Athletes kneeling during the National Anthem aren't seen as so un-American anymore.
It’s great that non-people of color are finally waking up, and businesses are answering a call that’s long overdue. What we really want is for Black people to stop being murdered by the police. We want racism to stop. We want conscious bias to stop. We want equality. We want respect. We want to be promoted and “the first” because we earned it – not because it’s a great thing to do right now. Why do Black people have to beg for these things? Why do we have to fight so hard for basic rights?
Here in California, a few cities are trying new visions of policing. Oakland and Berkeley are both considering programs that would reduce police contact with the mentally ill. A recent budget proposal for the L.A. Police Department includes the idea of taking some traffic enforcement out of the hands of police. In San Francisco, police are reducing their responses on calls involving nonviolent crimes. Lastly, in San Jose and Santa Ana, residents have requested city officials to shift police funds to social programs.
I just don’t know where we go from here, and I am not alone with that mindset. Every time there is another Black person killed by police, every time justice is being ignored – it’s too much to manage.
Elijah McClain was just walking home. Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her bed, in her own home. Jacob Blake was breaking up a fight and trying to get his kids home. George Floyd was being held for an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. They are all gone. Killed.
I don’t know what the rules should be, but we MUST do better than that.