365 days later, we are all asking ourselves what the past year has meant. Was George Floyd’s death a wakeup call? Yes, I believe it was.
It woke some people up to what more is needed to fight injustice, to speak for those who cannot, to share power with those who are ready to lead in truth and justice. For them, it was a year filled with hope and sorrow, at the conflicting and familiar realizations that so much of the proclaimed progress wound up simply as promises unfulfilled, while in some places, the steady, quiet work of the committed continued, out of the spotlight, changing heads and hearts, wearing down systems and structures.
It woke some people up to the reality of what life is like in this country for Black people. And this in turn helped increase awareness of the fact that while racism is at the core of so much of the inequality and inequity that Black people face in America, what fuels anti-Black racism is white supremacy, and patriarchy, so pervasive and powerful that it cuts across race and ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, age and ability, and most socioeconomic groups. For this newly awakened group, the past year has been sobering, as they have begun to look inwardly, to navigate how to responsibly and effectively show up in this not-so-brave, not-so-new world, and to de-center themselves in conversations large and small, an experience unfamiliar to many of them.
I believe that so much of what we desire for our country, of an America reimagined that rejects our history of hatred and our structures of oppression, must be achieved through both systemic change, and individual change.
I also believe that we have witnessed over the past 365 days just how deeply white supremacy is ingrained in our culture and society, and just how far some people will go to hold on to their privilege and power, in ways we both knew and did not fully know.
Because they are the third group of people awakened by the death of George Floyd. They are those who refuse to embrace justice, who refuse to come to terms with America’s original sin, who see our collective outrage and demand for justice and equality merely as political correctness gone mad, as cancel culture run amok, all the while refusing to acknowledge their unjustly acquired or inherited power and privilege. These people say they love America, yet they would rather see it crumble under the weight of lies and deception before they see its opportunity shared with those whom they first enslaved, those whom were here before they were, those whose oppression and sacrifice are the very bricks of the foundations of their so-called achievements and success.
If you want the real American Dream, ask yourself what you are willing to do about it for the next 365 days, because the spirit of George Floyd cries out for you to get involved, in our communities, in our companies, in our society, and in your families. The spirits of all of those who were murdered before him for centuries, and after him over the past year, simply because of the color of their skin — they cry out. For justice. For equality. For the kind of peace that is only found in honest acknowledgement of a nation’s collective and individual sins.
We talk about last summer as a reckoning. I’m not so sure about that anymore. One of the definitions of a reckoning is a settlement of account, a judgment. When it come to race in America, no, we have not yet had a reckoning. We can’t have a reckoning when so much of the country is still in the process of awakening, and other parts of the country remain in outright denial or active suppression of the truth. No, we have not experienced a reckoning. That said, another definition of this word “reckoning” is the process of calculating or estimating something. Yes, that feels right to me. For as a collective nation, we are just beginning to calculate the total cost of systemic racism to our culture, to our society, to our dreams, to our humanity. Many of us are just beginning to estimate what it will cost each of us to either dismantle it, or to maintain it.
After that, then the reckoning comes.
Rest in peace, George Floyd.