The events leading up to the murder of George Floyd were a perfect storm for the protest response that provided a shield for corrupt business practices and political agendas.
The Black Lives Matter movement response to the killing of George Floyd has become recognized worldwide for putting the world on notice of the U.S. systemic racist practices. To witness the protest first in Minnesota to now having a global effect brought out the political pander troops. Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Steny Hoyer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who led this forced comedic and sad march to accept the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) invitation to wear African kente cloth that served no purpose instead to create a borderline mockery of white people taking a knee. These force jesters have no value without an actual law passed to prevent the killings of black life in America. The Emmet Till Antilynching Act that would make lynching a federal hate crime couldn’t get passed because Senator Rand Paul blocked it despite the Equal Justice Initiative report that there are 4,075 documented lynching’s from 1877 to 1950 and an added 800 to date. Whatever the intention, the wearing of the kente cloth sends a message that politicians again, are trying to keep their job rather than help create actual beneficial change.
Billion-dollar companies have lately made sure to place the Black Lives Matter logo on their websites as a shield in hopes that the protest outcry doesn’t disrupt their financial gain. The Nielsen company reported in 2018 that African Americans spend 1.2 trillion dollars annually, which means that no billion-dollar business wants to lose the black dollar, despite having little to no black representation on the executive board level. As of February 2020, there are only four black Fortune 500 CEOs.
The NFL has 70% black players, three black coaches, and zero black owners, all while having commissioner Roger Goodell perform a late insincere apology that contradicts the ban on former QB Colin Kaepernick. Amazon has one board of directors who is black.
At the same time, former Redditt CEO Alexis Ohanian stepped down to be replaced by someone who is black, which, on the surface, sounds like a sympathetic idea if it didn’t take death and riots for that conclusion to be met. Mega companies are late to the party of the protest because, like most mainstream America, they neglected the glaring social issues that built up the emotional explosion aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
The events of COVID-19 shutdown were added ingredients to the eruption of the George Floyd protest, primarily with the U.S. facing its worst unemployment since the Great Depression. The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the U.S. economy lost over 20 million jobs in April. Many U.S. citizens live check-to-check and are unable to go any week or month without receiving income. Yes, a stimulus check is helpful, but the first round sent out in April; hence by that time, people were already unemployed and out of work as earliest as late February. To be unemployed while watching the CNN Coronavirus death tracker as a permanent visual on their screen is sure to cause another layer of anxiety. The Kaiser Family Foundation stated in a March 2020 poll that 45% of adults have said that the pandemic has affected their mental health due to job loss, isolation, and loneliness.
The social media death tributes, 24-hour news cycle of COVID-19, and financial struggles created an economic and emotional pot that was ready to blow.
Then, with the country fixated on media, along comes the image of officer Derek Chauvin causally sitting his knee on the neck of George Floyd. This visual(WHAT?) spoke bigger; that’s it’s a crime.
That pressure of Chauvin’s knee, as life slowly left Floyd, to some represented the pressure of the government system that had been pressing on them in their everyday lives. For the black community, it was already at an added frustrating reaction with recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, who was run down and killed by two white residents in a pickup truck along with Breonna Taylor who was also murdered in her own home because local cops had the wrong address for the arrest warrant.
But it was the look of calmness by Chauvin that represented the face of America’s reminder that black life has no value. To watch an entire eight minutes and forty-five seconds of a man dying while screaming out his deceased mother was an emotional breaking point that set an uproar for people who felt emotionally caged.
The demand from the rebellion now is for significant change – real change that will abolish the oppressed systems that have plagued people of color for centuries.
Still, their fight will be in vain if companies and politicians only see this moment as a plan for financial growth rather than an opportunity for reform.