A seminal event.
An event that leads to substantial change.
Will George Floyd’s death be a seminal event?
Please understand, I’m not suggesting the murder of a Black man by a White cop is something to celebrate. Rather, I’m wondering if Floyd’s killing — perhaps most especially because of how indefensible it was — and the torrent of protests that followed it finally got the message across that something had to change.
All Americans knew there were deep (and, yes, racist) flaws within the political, social, legal, economic and educational system when it came to the lives of too many Black men, but maybe now more of us will act on what we know. Perhaps Floyd’s death will make more of us say “that’s enough.” Perhaps it’ll ensure we’ll channel our anger into positive action.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, two prominent U.S. newspapers fired white men for how they handled an editorial and a headline. Multiple experienced military officials called out the president for his reckless and dangerous plans for handling the protestors. Statues honoring racist men have come tumbling down. NASCAR announced it would no longer allow the Confederate flag at its races.
These decisions are meaningful, but they come with an important caveat: If there’s insufficient bottom-up activity to continue the momentum of reforming police practices, outlining policies that will enhance economic growth in African-American communities, understanding the ingrained benefits White America has built up over more than 200 years and ending corrosive racist ideology, then in a few months’ time we’ll be back at proverbial square one.
Remember when Americans debated if the domestic terrorism at a Florida high school would finally be the impetus to change gun laws? Pockets of the country firmly believed that the raw passion of the school’s teenagers and their demands for change would lead to substantive gun legislation. However, the reactionaries within the NRA and the spine-lacking Republicans ensured that nothing at the federal level happened.
Will reactionaries, racists and wimps again win the day by, in effect, letting the clock run out on the memory of Floyd’s murder? Or will enough people speak out, protest, run for office, vote and be positive change agents within their communities?
I want to believe they will be. No, I want to believe we will be. If not us, who? If not now, when?