That’s the good news. The bad news is that the nation’s racist past, which was never really over, has also come back into view. The George Floyd awakening was countered by a presidential election which the Republican Party, increasingly clinging to Donald Trump, ruled illegal after voters of the color ran in record numbers. In January, mobs, mostly white, stormed and desecrated the US Capitol because they were not at all willing to accept an election result other than what they felt they were entitled to. A fundamental schism has developed between those who believe that white supremacy in America is still perfectly feasible and even moral, and those who believe that they are deeply anti-American and are determined to endorse it once and for all Bring calm. It is the great lie against the great truth.
George Floyd’s protests have shown that there is no middle ground in this battle as it should never have been. It is ironic – but very instructive – that systemic racism, which used to be so difficult to see or name, is now evident every day, in ongoing police shootings of black people, but also in the words and actions of elected officials around the world Country. At least now we all know which side we are on.
More monuments fell.
By Mitch Landrieu
Mitch Landrieu, founder and president of One of manyis the former mayor of New Orleans and former lieutenant governor of Louisiana.
In the year since the murder of George Floyd, the nation has opened a new chapter in our necessary nationwide conversation about race. This has inevitably led to more discussions about how we learn history and how we remember it, especially when it comes to monuments that honor and revere the Confederation.
As a lifelong New Orleans, I drove past Confederate monuments almost every day for years without thinking about it. But in my time as Mayor of New Orleans, even after the Charleston AME Church murders in 2015, I learned through research and discussion that most of the memorials were Confederate Propaganda built years, and often decades, after the Civil War . It became clearer to me that these symbols were meant to send a specific message to black Americans who stand not as sad marks of the legacy of slavery and segregation, but in awe of it. On pedestals across the country, not just in the south, these statues have long stood for white supremacy and our collective inability to grapple with our past.
As a result, the city of New Orleans removed four Confederate statues from Lost Cause, including Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, in 2017 after a multi-year controversial trial. New Orleans is by no means a racial society, but the very painful public process of coming to terms with our past – statues, street names, and more – is moving our city forward.
Since Floyd’s murder and the wider reckoning that followed, it has only become more frequent and politically possible for states, cities, and universities to delve deeply into the use of Confederate symbols. In the past year Dozens of statues and monuments are run down, including depictions of some of the most prominent characters in southern mythology: Stonewall Jackson in Richmond, John C. Calhoun in Charleston, and Jefferson Davis in the Kentucky State Capitol. This is progress. Given how tough these monuments battles have become, we cannot allow the momentum this moment created to fade.
These statues are so much more than stone and metal; Removing them can be a catalyst for deeper learning and healing, correcting our history, and making our communities more inclusive. An even more sustainable result will require changing or correcting the attitudes that made it possible for these symbols to stand up and stand up in the first place. As a country, we need to examine the systems and institutions that work to the detriment of black Americans and other people of color. We must continue to tell the truth about our past and present and heal racial segregation across the country. We will never taste the full fruits of freedom unless and until we are all included and feel included.
The lives of black women were also important.
By Keisha N. Blain
Keisha N. Blain is an adjunct professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, 2020-21 fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, and author of Set the world on fire and Until I’m free.
The police murder of George Floyd – on video from a brave young black woman– stunned the nation and convinced activists flood the streets, even during a global pandemic. The protests in turn sparked the global movement to end racism against blacks and state sanctioned violence.
As thousands condemned Floyd’s death and raised awareness of the systemic problem of police violence in the United States, a group of activists in Louisville, Kentucky worked to shed light on another act of senseless violence that had largely gone unnoticed: the murder of Breonna Taylor by the Police. Taylor was gunned down at her home two months before Floyd’s death when a group of officers walked in without warning as part of a drug investigation. But it wasn’t until after Floyd’s death that most Americans learned of Taylor’s name. And this was only possible because a network of black activists, including many women, demanded that Americans be careful about the effects of police violence all Black.
There is no denying that black men and boys represent the majority of blacks killed by the police in the United States. However, black women and girls are also vulnerable to state-sanctioned violence. Although Their stories are often disregardedare they no less important. Activists in Louisville, including Taylors Mother Tamika Parker and Taylor’s sister Ju’Niyah Palmer, made this clear when they took to the streets last spring and summer to say Breonna Taylor’s name.
When protests broke out in Louisville, Cate Young, a Los Angeles-based writer, was introduced #BirthdayForBreonna on Taylor’s 27th birthday (June 5, 2020). She appealed to her followers on Twitter and others on her social media and personal networks. She also created a page with a list of actionable steps others could take to fight for the justice of Taylor’s family, including sending out emails and birthday cards for Taylor to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer, to file criminal charges for the police officers responsible for Taylor’s death. Within a few weeks, Breonna Taylor was a household name.
Young’s efforts, combined with the work of female activists in Louisville and beyond, helped center black women’s vulnerability to state-sanctioned violence and made the #SayHerName campaign launched in 2014 to target violence against black women to draw attention to a national rally cry. And the turmoil after Floyd’s death created the conditions that made this possible. The following mass uprisings, bringing together people from different backgrounds, give hope that change is on the horizon.
Protests have reshaped cities.
By Kyle Shelton
Kyle Shelton is Associate Director at Rice University’s Children’s Institute for Urban Research.
The protests against systemic racism that erupted across the country a year ago not only changed people’s attitudes towards policing in the United States – they changed actual places and sparked concrete changes in the way we operate our cities plan, build and govern.
Last summer’s best-known images included protesters and mourners in Minneapolis transforming the site of George Floyd’s murder, a public street, into a square that now serves as a meeting place and is an expression of sadness, remembrance and demonstration.
Protests in other cities resulted in similar changes to Washington, where Mayor Muriel Bowser called a section of 16th Street NW, a place where protesters gathered just blocks from the White House, as Black Lives Matter Plaza. Protesters from Seattle to New York used roads, bridges, highways and other public rights of way to express anger and sadness and to call for the restoration of disparate systems. In doing so, they forced a reformulation of the urban space. Permanent or fleeting, these actions brought the goals of the protest into the literal building blocks of our cities.