It’s been one year since the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officers, Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao. Unlike most cases in which police kill unarmed Black people, all four officers were swiftly fired and ultimately charged for the murder of Floyd.
What made the killing of Floyd by police so different was the response by people in Minnesota, around the nation, and around the world who took to the streets by the millions to demand justice and accountability.
Regardless of whether people choose to accept this fact, it is clear that the uprising that happened in Minnesota in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, also made a difference in getting the attention of the powers-that-be, as well as mainstream White Americans.
The simple fact is that America thrives upon the system of capitalism and the financial implications of the uprising made a difference. But why should it have to take millions of people taking to the streets, almost nonstop protests and demonstrations, and buildings burning in order for people to care enough about state-sanctioned violence to do something? The short answer is that it shouldn’t.
For decades, Black people in Minnesota and around the nation have been speaking their truths, sharing stories of egregious police abuse and police murder, to no avail. We have marched. We have shut down freeways. We have testified at government hearings. We have drafted legislation. We have even run for office in an effort to transform the system of policing and to address the longstanding systemic challenges and oppression that Black people too often experience.
It has been a challenge to bring forth change in a society hell-bent on maintaining the status quo.
Since George Floyd’s murder became a matter of international concern, we have witnessed some changes to laws and policies such as multiple states banning and/or limiting the use of chokeholds, no-knock warrants, and warrior-style training. New York City became the first jurisdiction to end qualified immunity and Maryland overturned its police Bill of Rights. Some jurisdictions also cut millions of dollars from their public safety budgets and redirected those funds to social services, mental health, and youth programs. These changes are an important step towards a more balanced system, but they are not nearly enough.
As a society, we must vigorously interrogate and examine the system of policing and its slave patrol origin. We must analyze the data and use the facts to inform decision-making. We must transform the laws and policies that undergird the racism seeming endemic to and inherent within policing. And just as importantly listen to its victims: Black folks. We are the experts, given that we have faced a pandemic of racism, White supremacy, criminalization, and mass incarceration dating back more than a hundred years. But yet we are rarely consulted about how to solve these deeply entrenched problems.
Our steadfast work in raising awareness, challenging the status quo and oppressive systems has yielded some results; yet our work is far from over.
The struggle continues. Hopefully, more progress will follow.
Nekima Levy Armstrong is a civil rights attorney, former law professor, activist, legal scholar, and national racial justice expert. She is the founder and owner of Levy Armstrong, PLLC Law Firm & Black Pearl, LLC Consulting. In 2017, she was named 100 People to Know by Twin Cities Business. In 2016, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Governor’s Commission on Martin Luther King Day. In 2015, she was named one of “40 Under 40” by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. In 2014, she was named a “Minnesota Attorney of the Year” by Minnesota Lawyer and recognized as one of “50 Under 50 Most Influential Law Professors of Color in the Country” by Lawyers of Color Magazine.