George Floyd Died One Year Ago. Have We Learned Anything?

It has been a year since the murder of George Floyd.

I know, I know. Some of you are still having a hard time with the fact that cops sometimes purposely kill black folks, but it is what it is. What I’d like to know is: have we learned anything as a nation? 

Or maybe the question should be: have we actually done anything? 

The words “Not Much” land like a thud from a brother or sister being thrown to the ground in handcuffs hoping that they make it to the lock up alive. 

Harsh? Yes, but it’s a cold reality. The truth is harsh. One year later black folks are still being needlessly murdered by the police. In recent memory, we have Daunte Wright, who was murdered during a traffic stop by a so-called training officer who mistakenly thought she had shot at him with her Taser! 

Really? 

Let me say that again: a training officer who trains other police officers pulled her service revolver and killed someone thinking she had pulled her Taser. 

Ironically this happened in Minnesota, the same week of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer who murdered George Floyd. On the same day that Chauvin was convicted, a 16-year-old girl in Columbus, Ohio — that’s right, a teenaged black girl — was killed by a police officer. 

Say what you will about the video but shooting this young girl was unnecessary. Could something else have been done? Yes. If force was necessary, there are other options: rubber bullets, Tasers. It sounds sarcastic, but it isn’t. She was freakin’ 16. 

There are others: Andrew Brown, who was supposedly a danger to police but was shot in the back of the head; Jacob Blake, who may never walk again; Elijah McClain, killed while walking down the street. Let’s not forget Breonna Taylor’s killer is still walking around Kentucky as a free man. And, yes, other folks of color as well as white folks have been killed by the police, so it’s not — how do they say it? — “Just Us.” 

The ones that stick with me the most are those who are murdered simply because they have a mental illness. Whether it’s POCs or White folks, police just seem to come unglued when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill. How many times have we heard of police being called to a home because someone was having an “episode” only to sometimes see their loved ones gunned down in front of them?

Of course, the old standby excuse is always the same: the officers involved felt their lives were in danger. 

Now let me get this straight. You have two or more supposedly highly-trained police officers who are facing one confused person with a knife at most in most cases and the only way to stop them is to gun them down? I’ve seen this up close and personal and even though the person was unarmed and a whole 100 pounds, they came at her like stormtroopers. That’s hardly “protect and serve,” boys and girls. 

One year later and there has been little movement on real police reform. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — which Joe Biden said would be signed, sealed, and delivered by now — is languishing in the Senate. The sticking point? Qualified immunity, which basically protects individual officers from being sued. I agree that whole departments and even whole city governments should be held accountable for an officer’s mistakes, especially when it comes to loss of life. I bet once the politicians know that it’s coming out of their pockets, you’ll see police reform real quick. 

I recently read an article that suggested that being woke was just a fad for some white folks and when the novelty wears out everyone goes back to their regularly-scheduled program. I tend to agree, but it’s not just white folks: the rest of us do it too. Think of the pussy hats, the gun marches etc., — many do it just to be seen or for the likes on social media. Change doesn’t happen that way. 

So one last thing: what are you doing? You gotta be in it. What are you waiting for? Put the damn remote down. Do something. Be about it.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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