George Floyd never asked to become a martyr. His death after 8 minutes and 46 seconds of having an officer’s knee pressed to his throat, all captured on a cellphone video, has proven to be one of the most horrific sights that has been recorded this century. Not once was he disrespectful to those officers. He begged and pleaded for his life, and even called out his mama’s name. All to no avail.
George Floyd’s death has resonated throughout the entire world. It captured in living color what black people have often spoken about: Our fear of an encounter with the police that we don’t live to tell about. I was not amazed by certain individuals who countered the recording of his death with his criminal record. The irony of that defense is that George was a criminal who held a gun against a woman, and the woman lived, yet George Floyd was held by law enforcement, and he died!
The aftermath of George Floyd’s death has played out all over the place. I am not one who supported the looting and rioting that went on. One only has to remember what Madison and Pulaski looked like in the 1960s to see that it never returned to the magnificent shopping area it once was. Although I grew up on the North Side, it was well known that if you couldn’t find it on Madison Street, it didn’t exist in the world!
There were a lot of provocateurs who wanted certain things to happen and conveniently provided the equipment for it. Like the pallets of bricks that just happened to be available. Or the video of white people breaking the windows of businesses, to encourage looting and the starting of fires. It’s been 23 years since Chicago had an occasion to riot, which was the last Bulls championship. So the numerous young people who have been raised on stories of ill-gotten loot from those riots were looking for their own opportunity to steal. The devastation that occurred at the Washington Square Mall at North Avenue and Cicero proves that many of those who looted had no clue how hard this community had to work and struggle just to get a mall in that location. And I understand numerous videos exist that show multiple ethnic/racial groups who did all the plundering.
Another aftermath effect of George Floyd’s murder has been the self-reflection that many corporations are doing. From acknowledging Juneteenth, to honoring that day, to talking about the Tulsa race riots, America has never been so aware and upfront about her own shameful history.
For years I have promoted and celebrated Juneteenth. It had been a major holiday in Texas since 1980, but for the rest of the country, it was unknown. I learned about it around 20 years ago. Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation, effective Jan. 1, 1863. It did nothing for those who were enslaved in Northern states. So when those enslaved in Galveston, Texas learned two and a half years later of their freedom, they marked the occasion with song, dance, and religious prayer. This year, for the first time in my memory, it became recognized almost overnight by major corporations. It was a proud moment to see so many cars bearing the flag. I am hoping that we can take the momentum from this year and really move it forward for next year.
Next week I’ll address America’s corporate response.