The world is approaching the one year anniversary of the death and uprising of George Floyd. George Floyd, the name that highlights a long living–common issue deeply rooted in society, alongside other victims. A name whose story is worth reading, questioning, and rewriting for all who’ve shared the same tragic ending–to one submerged in longevity, where one’s fate no longer resides in the hands of another to determine, but is self prophesied. George Floyd, more than a name, is a movement towards the right to one’s own profound destiny. A movement of reparation, reclamation, liberation, progression, and justice, that will no longer be accepted in measures based on the color of one’s skin. George Floyd, a confirmation that Black lives, joy, and longevity is worth fighting for as many times as it takes. A mission. A purpose. History. Prosperity.
It seems like it was yesterday when I rode fondly down Lake Street, in Southside Minneapolis, in sight of the neighborhood my grandmother helped my mom care for me in, but this time, completely unrecognizable and war torn. The feeling of loss as those memories slipped into my subconscious. The loss of sentiment. The loss of a part of me. It was only a fraction of the grief that circulated the air those weeks following George Floyd’s death. There were holes cut into the hearts of the people. The spark of injustice is a painful call to action that takes its own toll in many ways. People fought to mend themselves and their communities, and continue, as we can all agree the work around racial justice is far from over. But what’s changed? How are we doing now?
Though one may argue it isn’t enough, and one may argue it’s too much, many things have changed since the death of George Floyd. You could imagine Christopher Columbus statues defaced and toppled over sparking some controversy. For me, it’s exciting to see the very history I learned in school finally be questioned and looked at from a new perspective. It seemed when I would do the same in school, it was a problem, and that was a problem. Those weren’t the only statues taken down though, and it wasn’t only happening in the US either. The statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, was taken down in Bristol Britain, on June 7th, 2020. It’s been mentioned that statues and monuments were targeted based on their links to confederacy and slavery, and most taken down will be placed in museums instead.
What’s happening in response to the death of George Floyd from a Black perspective, is in light of injustice, not for further exclusion. I want to believe when I say, the betterment of the Black community and the longevity of Black lives is better for all, is an understanding amongst humanity, and won’t live on as a remaining opinion of some. So to me, it makes sense that laws are being called into discussion, as they’re direct enforcements of order and safety. George Floyd, and so many other Black victims of police brutality, weren’t safe. They weren’t protected by the very people and laws in place to protect them. This has a trickle effect amongst minority communities who’ve witnessed authority abuse people “like them,” leading them to take precautions into their own hands.
States like California, Washington, DC, Nevada, and Texas have joined Minnesota in police reform. I feel city councilors vowing to reform police departments is a step towards rebuilding trust and reducing violence. I say reducing violence because I want you to imagine this. Violence is most prominent in poor neighborhoods. The systemic pipeline of miseducation, career and financial disparities, and redlining directly result to violence and poorer living conditions, which Black people are most affected by. The next portion of oppression falls into the system’s continual lack of direct response to the effects of its own system, despite its effects being clear to harm the Black community. All to say, the violence in Black communities isn’t solely self imposed. It’s a direct result of systemic oppression. The difference between a middle-upper class suburban neighborhood and a poor neighborhood is that in the poor community, a black woman like me could be killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But in the suburban neighborhood, I could be anywhere and never feel safe. Most Black people feel ostracized in white-dominant areas and spaces. We feel endangered, if not physically, spiritually. In my experience, something is always taken from Black people in white-dominant spaces. Equality, opportunity, culture and identity, colloquialism, love. It’s these realizations that keep Black people locked in the hood and economic disparity. It’s not just the people. Black people deserve better protection. Black liberation, especially, needs protecting. And not just from our community, but of the world.
Following George Floyds death, there have been demonstrations of support in all 50 states, including in small villages like Anna, Illinois–locally described as one of the “most racist cities in the US.” And that’s just the US. Global tributes and protests have also happened in spaces like London, Tokyo, and Auckland, in support for racial equality. But protests weren’t the only way people were brought together. Within my hometown, the Twin Cities of Minnesota, there have been numerous communal resources off the frontlines provided by both Black and non-Black parties–doing just as much service for the POC community, and this is being replicated across the nation for certain, if not internationally as well. The summer following George Floyd’s death I experienced many open mics, grocery and clothes drives, community body work and holistic healing services (my first time actually ever getting acupuncture was in a park at an event catered to healing the community in response to the trauma of George Floyd’s death), baby supplies, BBQs and fresh hot meals, free therapy sessions, community outdoor yoga classes, and more. Prior to George Floyd’s death, the pandemic had isolated the community, so it was amazing to be in the space of others again.
Speaking of spaces, we all know how important employment is, as we all have lives that require money to maintain. Work spaces have made gradual change for some time now through non-discriminative laws and promises of equal opportunity, but tokenism and gatekeeping are prevalent obstacles in economic success for POC. I personally had to experience being the tokenized Black employee because livable wages were often offered at white-dominant companies, in white-dominant neighborhoods. I would take the bus almost two hours out to work in a white-dominant area, as my neighborhood was surrounded with underpaying fast food restaurants, liquor stores, and convenient shops, which I didn’t want to work at. To share a glimpse of the harsh realities of the toxic, inequitable economic system built on white supremacy, I worked at an upscale restaurant where I was the only woman of color and was constantly asked about my hair and skin. The clientele wasn’t used to POC working at that restaurant, and I know because a customer told me specifically, “we’re so happy you’re working here, we really need this.” I worked catering and again, was the only Black woman in the entire company, accompanied by one young Black man. I worked at a daycare, again, the only Black woman in the entire building, amongst staff and students. Often the kids would ask me why my skin is brown, and “if it tasted like chocolate” (one kid actually tried to lick me). I mentioned to the staff that we should start having conversations with the students around diversity because I was tired of explaining why I look different or why my hair is “fluffy.” But the last straw was in the midst of the pandemic, I’d lost my job and applied to work at a grocery store. I tried to wear Black Lives Matter gear and was told it wasn’t allowed due to politics. I was beyond offended because there was a grace period in response to George Floyd’s death where employees were able to wear BLM gear, but since the “hype” had passed by the time I was hired, it was no longer permitted. It was very performative, and ultimately disheartening. This is when I really began to understand the purpose of my employment at former jobs, and often credibility and publicity for diversity and inclusion came to mind, but at the expense of genuine value and care for my life as an individual with differences. I wondered if I spoke a little more informal and dressed a bit more street, if I would’ve gotten the same opportunities. And oftentimes when I did, I didn’t. This is not only discouraging to the Black community, but simply oppressive. I made a promise to never sacrifice myself for money because I am not a token, I am not worth less or of lesser value than those of lighter skin, and I am capable of more than I’m deemed capable of as a dark skinned Black woman through the white-supremacy lens. Since George Floyd’s death there has absolutely been an increase in, “POC encouraged to apply,” listings. But I’m not sure if the performativity of it has changed, as the American economy stands on systemic racism.
Now on a national level, many companies became very vocal about standing in solidarity with Black lives. Big brands have been quick to pledge their support and offer Black individuals a space at the forefront, but some brands, such as L’Oriel, have received harsh criticism for posts around “the racial violence of white people,” which actually led the brand to firing the model who made the statement years ago, a Black transgender woman, and then rehired her following George Floyd’s death. Again, lots of work to do before we get to the point where there’s actual racial equity in the workplace, but there’s been one solution that’s been transformative, investments into Black-owned businesses.
It is likely you’ll come across an ad stating, “support Black-owned businesses,” now more than ever. Black people have always had businesses, but history has consistently covered up the truth around burning, gatekeeping, sabotaging, and displacing successful Black businesses for ages. Today we stand stronger. Since George Floyd’s death, investments into Black businesses are at an all time high, locally, nationally, and internationally via the internet. Just this month I went to a market catered to Black vendors, and I searched for that personally. I think the Black community is awakening to how detrimental it is to continue investing into organizations that enable oppression and systemic racism, and are choosing to invest into our own community–alongside allies. Big corporations that faced as a target for looters during the outbreak of mass protests were prioritized in protecting, while small businesses fell to the ground. This was eye-opening to the connection between the government and big corporations, in a way where it became clear that corporations are seen of greater value than its consumers, and hence are protected. Yay, capitalism! When boycotting of big corporations and mass media began, racial stands really began being made. The popular designer brands prominent in the Black community that remained silent on the stand for justice lost profit, while Black-owned clothing lines went up. Netflix and other streaming sites that enabled racist programming and commercials on the platform lost profit, which influenced many streaming sites to remove a lot of content and promote BLM. Unfortunately, my hometown, Minnesota, hasn’t had many long standing Black-owned businesses. But that’s changing completely across the nation. Since the death of George Floyd in conjunction with the pandemic, the birth of new Black businesses is in full effect. Lot’s of articles around Black businesses in the surrounding areas of each state have been popularized, so check it out! I know personally, I’m excited for the Dripping Root, Minnesota’s first and only Black-owned juice bar open May 29th!
Nonetheless, since the death of George Floyd, over 150 Black individuals have been killed by the police. So yes, while positive changes are being made like the Confederate battle flag being probitied by many organizations, increase of donations to Black organizations suffering from the pandemic, or bodycams required to be worn by police officers at all times now, there is still so much work to do. Oftentimes it can be overwhelming brainstorming effective ways to promote racial justice, but it is a priority. Oftentimes it’s surprising to have to deal with this in the 21st century. This is a long fight, and though we are just at the beginning, change is happening rapidly. Without an entire shift of perspective in society, without accountability and proactivity on all sides of humanity, without the dismantling of the current oppressive system, America is destined to fall. It’s unfortunate it’s taken a tragedy to reach the depth of the current racial impact. What America stands on is the very people who hold it together. If America wants to reach its full potential, it needs to love all who’ve contributed to and continue to build this empire. History is being written and rewritten. Hopefully because the betterment of the Black community and the longevity of Black lives is better for all, is an understanding amongst humanity, and won’t live on as a remaining opinion of some.