Were black people right to be skeptical during George Floyd?

This post is meant to reopen discussion about change in light of everything that has happened in the United States since the passing of George Floyd.

I remember the morning that I heard the news of George Floyd vividly. It was 6AM and my phone had a few texts from relatives and colleagues that normally don’t text that often. They were all white and expressed their outrage at everything that happened. I had no idea what happened but figured it must be big if I’m hearing about it like this.

We all know what happened next. I was living in Oakland, CA at the time and personally observed the peaceful protests from my window in Lake Merritt. At work, efforts to take DEI efforts seriously was suddenly a first-class priority (despite stonewalling a year earlier but more on that in another post). I was deeply conflicted on what to make of it all.

Why? To begin, I have to tell you that I consider myself a “Cosby kid” in the sense that my generation was taught that as long as a person did the work, did their part to integrate within society, and got an education, then they will go as far as their heart’s content. I have always abhorred invoking race as an explanation for any shortcomings in my life. And I still do. It was only until I experienced several situations in my 30s that I began to seriously wonder where race was playing a role in my daily life and work.

So, understand that I am writing from a place of inclusion and as an outspoken defender of equality, no matter a person’s race. You’ll learn why I feel that way in future posts and you can evaluate my record accordingly.

The most interesting aspect of the George Floyd protests and subsequent DEI efforts was the commitment from white liberals during that time. I have never seen such energy towards addressing racism in America and I had to suspend my skepticism. Maybe this time would be different?

Cynically, I told a few black friends around that time that we will see how dedicated our white friends will be in six months. If they prove me wrong then I will be the first one to say so.

Well, you know what happened next.

Since May 2020, many things have changed. Here’s just a few:

  • The tradition of a peaceful transfer of power that reigned from 1802 ended on January 6th, 2021 with the insurrection against the U.S. Capitol.
  • At least 20 (and I’m being conservative) restrictive voting rights laws have been implemented in 14 states across the country.
  • Significant increases in hate crimes, enrollment in hate groups, and open displays of hate (i.e. marches, swastika displays, etc) have occurred throughout the country.

And yet, I have seen an unprecedented display of apathy, indifference, and hostility from the center-left that is frankly depressing. It brings me here to Medium to ask a question that my friends are tired of hearing.

What happened since George Floyd?

I thought that we were going to finally change things this time. Pardon my anecdotal experiences please. But where did the fervor go?

Maybe I am wrong but as a person of color, I find it harder to talk about voting rights, racism, and what can be done about it. I’ve been met with indifference and irritation at even the invocation of January 6th. If you are not upset about it, why not? I’m upset because my right to vote was granted in that body. My predecessors fought bitterly to gain the franchise and watching insurrectionists smear things and attempt to overturn an election was an affront to my citizenship.

We cannot simply move on from January 6th. I hope that I’ve done some good in this post. The best responses would be outlining the real work that you’ve done to keep up the fight so that our democracy endures. If not, then the energy that I and millions of other African-Americans saw that weekend was just for show.

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