I am writing this at 8:44 Wednesday evening after one of the most remarkable days I have experienced. For two weeks, I periodically just broke down sobbing. I think what sets me off is thinking that Mr. Floyd called for his dead mother as he knew he was being murdered. His body was put beside her in the cemetery. I rage and rage with fury and pain. I think “he was murdered because he looks like me.” Every Black person in this country thinks that.
Emmett Till was another Black man who was killed by racists. After his death, his mother insisted—let’s hear it for mothers—that his casket be open when mourners went by. She wanted to make sure all of Chicago and the world knew what had been done to her baby. His murder in 1955 ignited the modern civil rights era. Mrs. Rosa Parks, a trained activist, stood her ground on a bus in Birmingham Alabama that December.
To me, Mr. George Floyd is a martyr as was Mr. Till. It is so profoundly sad that most of white America had to witness a Black man being murdered in front of their eyes by a police officer before they believed what we Black people have been telling them for 400 years about racism on these shores. For the first time since 1968, when I was a freshman at Northwestern, there is national talk about systemic racism. People are actually talking about CONCRETE changes that can be and indeed must be made in the status quo.
Well yesterday we watched the California Assembly debate the issue of restoring affirmative action, a very concrete way of dismantling structural/systemic racism. About 70 members of the Opportunity for All Coalition, the organization that is spearheading the repeal effort, chatted on Slack as the hearing progressed. I had a number of observations. First, the legislators of color all felt very empowered to tell their truth. We heard from people who were the first in their families to go to college. Assemblyman Miguel Santiago could not study because he had to support his family, yet he graduated magna cum laude from UCLA. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer talked about the overt racism in saw when contracts were awarded in Los Angeles. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez talked of how an affirmative action program at Stanford that resulted in her being admitted, changed the trajectory of her life. There were so many powerful stories.
We were told by some legislators that they would make up their minds on how to vote when they heard the statements from their colleagues. You could feel the presence of Mr. Floyd as well as the spirit of the hundreds of thousands of protestors around the world who said “Enough” to American racism. Legislators who had told us they were going to vote No, voted Yes. There was a palpable sense that we cannot keep turning a blind eye to racism—that we must DO something.
Well, Mr. George Floyd, your little daughter Gianna was right when she said, “My Daddy changed the world.” He certainly changed Sacramento.