Combating Racism – Honoring George Floyd

This Tuesday will mark the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and the anniversary of my changing my Best Self blog posts to Combating Racism blog posts.  Since May 25, 2020, Floyd’s death has sparked global protests about racial inequality and police brutality, and renewed pledges from some to fight racism. In this newsletter, I highlight many of the changes that have been implemented since Mr. Floyd’s death.

POSITIVE CHANGES SINCE GEORGE FLOYD’S MURDER

1. Global tributes and protests

- There have been demonstrations in all 50 US states, including in places like Anna, a small village in Illinois, described locally as one of "the most racist places.”

- Cities in 50 countries have also held demonstrations, including London, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Paris and Auckland, to name a few. People have been protesting with one message - Black Lives Matter.

- Syrian painter Aziz Asmar and his two friends painted a portrait of George Floyd on the side of a bombed-out building in Syria's Idlib province.

2. Confederate monuments

- Some city governments and universities have removed monuments to Confederate leaders, slave owners, or known racists. As of June 19, 2020, at least 22 cities had either removed or approved the removal of Confederate monuments, including Richmond, Virginia; Jacksonville, Florida; Decatur, Georgia; and Indianapolis, Indiana. The city of Louisville, Kentucky, took down a Confederate soldier monument, a plan that had been in the works for almost two years.

- In some cases, protesters toppled the statues themselves. In Richmond, Virginia, demonstrators brought down statues of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and Christopher Columbus. And in St. Paul, Minnesota, protestors also toppled a statue of Christopher Columbus.

3. Corporate changes

Some of the world's biggest brands have been quick to pledge their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

- Walmart stopped selling guns and locking up black hair care products

The chain removed firearms and ammunition from some store floors after several days of nationwide protests.

Walmart leaders also said stores would stop locking up black hair care products after an activist shared that, while products used by white people sat open on shelves, products for black hair were locked in plastic cases.

- Leaders resigned after complaints of racist company cultures: CEOs and prominent heads of business have stepped down after claims of racism and toxic company culture.

After several black writers revealed their experiences with racism at the women's website Refinery29, the site's editor-in-chief stepped down "to help diversify our leadership in editorial."

After the New York Times' Opinion section ran an inflammatory piece from Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton arguing that the Insurrection Act could be invoked to deploy the military across the country to assist local law enforcement, writers and editors across the paper called the op-ed "dangerous" to black employees. Opinion editor James Bennett later resigned after he admitted he hadn't read the piece before it was published.

CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman resigned after comments he made about the Black Lives Matter movement, using the term "Floyd-19" and questioning why he should mourn George Floyd.

Audrey Gelman, CEO of the women's social club and coworking community The Wing, resigned following months of complaints about racial inequities within the company. Employees criticized her leaving, saying that removing her wasn't enough to fix the systemic inequalities in The Wing's leadership.

- Companies pledged their support for Black Lives Matter:

  • Airbnb
  • A16z
  • Bumble
  • Cisco
  • Docusign
  • DoorDash
  • Eaze
  • Etsy
  • Grindr
  • Grubhub
  • IBM
  • Matchstick Ventures
  • Microsoft
  • Niantic
  • Peloton
  • Reddit
  • RobinHood
  • Salesforce
  • Shopify
  • Snap
  • Uber
  • Techtonic

- Spotify tweeted:


4. Police officers charged

Derek Chauvin, 45, the former Minneapolis Police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in one of the most consequential trials of the Black Lives Matter era. The third-degree murder charge said Chauvin acted with a "depraved mind," and the manslaughter charge said his "culpable negligence" caused Floyd's death. The former officer faces 12 1/2 years in prison under sentencing guidelines for a first-time offender. But prosecutors argue there are aggravating factors that warrant a longer prison term, meaning Chauvin could face 30 years in prison.

A federal grand jury has indicted the three other former Minneapolis police officers—J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao—for civil rights charges in the death of George Floyd. They are each facing aiding and abetting charges and charges of violating a federal law that forbids government officials from abusing their authority.

5. Police department changes

- Minneapolis city council forced the police department to ban chokeholds as have Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Denver, among other locales.

- Unannounced police raids, known as "no-knock warrants" have been scrapped in Louisville - where Breonna Taylor was asleep when police officers entered her apartment and shot her eight times.

- The Aurora Police Department in Michigan banned the carotid control hold, a move that cuts off blood flow to the brain, after police used it to restrain Elijah McClain, an unarmed black man who wasn't accused of any crime. Phoenix also banned the technique following protests.

- The mayors of Chicago, Cincinnati, and Tampa, Florida, and the police chiefs of Baltimore, Phoenix and Columbia, South Carolina, have come together to create the Police Reform and Racial Justice Working GroupThe mayor of San Francisco, which also banned neck restraints, unveiled her own plan for police reform with hopes of addressing structural inequities.

- The Iowa governor signed a police reform bill that was passed in one day.

- The New Jersey attorney general announced this month that the state will update its use-of-force rules, the first time it's been updated in almost 20 years. The Dallas Police Department adopted a "duty to intervene" rule requiring fellow officers to intervene if someone is using excessive force.

- Accountability within the police force is increasing: Several officers filmed using force against protesters have been released from duty and investigated.

6. Changes in public life

- Physicians condemn racism: Prominent physician groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and American College of Physicians have declared racism a public health crisis and called for an end to police brutality against Black Americans.

The groups said the trauma of racism can shorten life spans and cause chronic illnesses, and because police brutality disproportionately occurs against Black people, they're more likely to die as a result.

- Juneteenth is a paid holiday: Twitter, Nike, Vox Media and more have made Juneteenth -- June 19 -- an official paid holiday for employees. Juneteenth honors the day in 1865 on which, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, and told enslaved Black Americans there that they were free.

7. Charitable donations

- Kanye West set up a fund to cover the cost of university for George Floyd's six-year-old daughter Gianna.

- The George Floyd's memorial fund smashed its $1.5m goal and became the most donated GoFundMe page on the website.

- Millions of donations were also made to other causes related to racism.

- The Minnesota Freedom Fund was created to help low income people cover the cost of bail - which can cost thousands.

8. Street names changed

IMAGE COPYRIGHT GETTY IMAGES

Black Lives Matter Plaza is now the name of the street in Washington DC leading up the White House. Mayor Muriel Bowser had 16th Street, leading to the White House, painted with 35-foot capital letters. The Mayor of New York says a street in each borough will be renamed "Black Lives Matter."

9. Programs deleted from streaming platforms

TV shows that contain "racially insensitive" or inappropriate characters are being removed from streaming services - although many argue we shouldn't judge comedy from previous eras by today's standards.

- Little Britain and Come Fly with Me were pulled from iPlayer and Netflix because of their use of Black face.

- The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentlemen were also removed from Netflix.

- HBO removed 'Gone with the Wind'. The streaming platform (which shares a parent company -- WarnerMedia -- with CNN) temporarily took down the Oscar-winning film for racist depictions of slavery and the Confederate South during the Civil War. The service condemned the prejudice portrayed in the film as "wrong then ... and wrong today." The film will return later with "historical context" that denounces the depictions in the film.

10. Sports changes

- NASCAR banned the Confederate flag: NASCAR banned the flag from flying at events after Bubba Wallace, the only full-time black NASCAR driver, condemned it. "The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry," NASCAR said. The Confederate flag has long been considered a symbol of the hate and racism foundational to the Confederacy, which seceded from the U.S. in 1860 so it could continue to profit from slavery.

- NFL owned up: Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league "was wrong" for not listening to players' criticisms of racism in and out of the NFL and vowed that moving forward, the NFL would "encourage peaceful protest." Goodell didn't mention former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who hasn't been signed since 2017 -- a decision many think is due to his kneeling protest against police brutality during the National Anthem.

The NFL also vowed to donate $250 million over the next 10 years to "end systemic racism" by working with unnamed organizations and "leveraging the NFL Network."

- Sports heavyweights called for an end to qualified immunity: Players across the NBA, NFL, and MLB, including Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, sent a letter to Congress asking to end qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police officers accused of violating a civilian's rights.

The Players Coalition, a social justice and racial equality advocacy group founded by NFL players Anquan Boldin and Malcom Jenkins, said in its letter that the group is demanding accountability for police brutality.

ONGOING POLICE BRUTALITY

Since George Floyd's death last May, 181 Black people in the U.S. have been killed by the police, according to data from research group Mapping Police Violence.

Here are a number of significant statistics:

  • Of the 966 police killings reported since May 25, 2020, the database shows that Black people account for 18.7 percent, despite making up 13 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau. Police killings of White victims made up 37 percent of the total deaths. White Americans are 76.3 percent of the population, the Census Bureau says.
  • In the 1,127 police killings recorded in 2020, only 16 cases, or about 1.4 percent, resulted in a charge against the offending officer. Of the officers identified by Mapping Police Violence, at least 14 had shot or killed someone in the past.
  • Numbers gathered between 2013 and 2020 indicate that Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than White people, despite being 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed than White people. These figures are amplified when looking at the country's largest cities.
  • In 47 of the 50 largest U.S. cities, police killed Black people at higher rates than Whites. In Chicago, police killed Black people at a rate 22 times more than that for White people, based on killings per 100,000 population. In Miami, racial disparities could not be calculated because every person killed by the city's police department was Black or Brown.
  • Of the police killings documented in 2020, traffic stops were listed as the initial police encounter in 121 deaths.

Below is a partial list of murders of Blacks by police since the killing of George Floyd. Many of these individuals were unarmed and some were in a state of mental distress at the time of their murders:

Rodney Applewhite, 25
Andrew Brown, 42
Frederick Cox, 18
A.J. Crooms, 16
Sergeant Damian Daniels, 30
Carl Dorsey III, 39
Joshua Feast, 22
Casey Goodson Jr., 23
Andre’ Hill, 47
Xzavier Hill, 18
Dolal Idd, 23
Deon Kay, 18
Dijon Kizzee, 29
David McAtee, 53
Ariane McCree, 28
Trayford Pellerin, 31
Sincere Pierce, 18
Ashton Pinke, 27
Jonathan Price, 31
Daniel Prude, 41
Kurt Reinhold, 42
Marvin D. Scott III, 26
Marcellis Stinnette, 19
Darius Tarver, 23
Walter Wallace Jr., 27
Patrick Warren Sr.
Matthew Williams, 35
Daunte Wright, 20
Ma’Khia Wright, 16

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While significant strides have been made since the killing of George Floyd, there is still much work to be done to combat racism.  For now, it is enough to remember the events of May 25, 2020 when a brave teenager captured on video the horrific murder of an unarmed Black man, in front of 4 police officers.

Jews the world over honor deceased loved ones on the anniversary of death. This annual observance allows the family a chance to recall the pain of a loss but also provides the opportunity to celebrate and honor the memory of the person they loved.

As we approach the anniversary of the death of George Floyd, there are several actions you can take to honor the memory of George Floyd:

  1. Read a book or article about racism. A list of reading material can be found in my newsletter of October 18, 2020.
  2. Read a book or article about policing.
  3. Light a candle.
  4. Spend the day helping others (e.g., your local food banks, homeless shelters, etc.).
  5. Make a donation to an organization fighting for racial justice. A list of organizations can be found in my newsletter of April 11, 2021.

In the words of Gianna Floyd, "My Daddy changed the world." And in the words of Abraham Lincoln, ". . . let these dead not have died in vain."

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