Reviews | Racism did not kill George Floyd. Anti-blackness did.
From whips to guns, 18th century slave patrols are the ancestors of modern policing. As it turns out, Mr. Floyd’s killer made the news, that he had video footage documenting his desperate screams at his deceased mother for help from the other side. The brutal murder of Mr. Floyd is not an exception, but rather the rule in a nation that has literally made black people things.
Black people have been turned into property, built this country, shed blood, sweat and tears in the soil we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. The objectification black people is a fundamental part of the identity of this nation.
Taking this reality into account is much more difficult than combating prejudice, racism and even institutional or structural racism. And it does more than any of these concepts to help us make sense of over 400 years of black suffering – of our never-ending pain, rage, and exhaustion.
Mr. Floyd’s death is the story of our babies, the many black children who literally or metaphorically grow up under the steel heel of a police boot. This is the story of our families who, since the Middle Passage, have had to endure the unimaginable.
But when they kill our children, our mothers and our fathers, we are supposed to forgive, to be peaceful in the face of horrific violence. We are asked to abide by a law that cannot recognize our humanity – which cannot provide redress. And when time and again the law shows that it will never protect us, that it will never hold accountable the individuals and systems that harm us, we are meant to peddle a narrative that the system works, that justice will prevail.
Mr Floyd’s brother lamented, “I just don’t understand what we still have to go through in life, man.” People are in the streets today because years ago we walked peacefully and belted Negro Spirituals, hoping they would recognize our humanity. We wore Afros as crowns in remembrance of our beauty. We put our fists in the air demonstrating our strength. We have declared that our lives count in all magnificent dimensions, demanding that they stop killing us on the streets and in our homes with impunity. People are on the streets today because despite all the people who have lost their lives – literally and figuratively, in this struggle for black life, the struggle continues.
So let’s stop saying that racism killed George Floyd, or worse yet, that a racist cop killed George Floyd. George Floyd was killed because anti-darkness is rampant and is central to how we all make sense of the social, economic, historical and cultural dimensions of human life.
kihana miraya ross is Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University.
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