It is imperative that the African descended resurrect George Floyd from the chokehold of American his story.
The morning of May 25, 2020, would become the final hours of Floyd’s life. By this time last year, his feet were tagged, his organs prepped for an autopsy that would “prove” what millions would see from various angles in April 2021. His violent transition would not only transform his life into death. Still, it would transform his blackness into a universal symbol of injustice— a symbol that demanded a performance culminated in what I call the parrot-perspective.
Just as parrots repeat what they hear without conceptualizing or acknowledging content, the media used George Floyd’s murder—namely any acknowledgment of the sheer disregard for life his death elucidates— as a portrait of empathy and racial reckoning.
National simplification of a complex racial matter resumes a national pattern that seduces those seeking the optics of change. So while many regard George Floyd’s death as a lynching—the most painful part of his legacy is that a black man’s death became a way to lynch black people behind the veil of progress.
I am not sure that the portrait of racism is any more lucid than a black man’s death as the center of a white movement. They took our language, forever fractured our connection with our mother continent, but these evils continue not to be enough. Our anti-black adversaries also absconded our right to transition. Though George Floyd lived and died as a black man in America, his murder casts him as an ornament for the very oppression that killed him, precluding the posthumous peace a legacy should provide.
Thus, when I hear that George Floyd “changed the world,” this phrasing underscores that racism merely changed clothes and seduced too many to admire its outfit.
A black man is dead, and America employed his death to renew faith in its pseudo magic. So white nationalism has another life to live while black people continue to lose theirs daily.
Moreover, it becomes difficult to think about George Floyd and his murder without thinking about the four-hundred year legacy that encases it and it’s status as planting a seed for a more significant legacy. As Derrick Bell articulated in his 1980 essay, “Brown v. Board of Education and the interest-convergence dilemma,” black “victories” in America only occur when black interest converges with white value.
Reflecting on George Floyd one year later emphasizes that “we,” the black collective cannot hold hands across hegemony. We are in this alone. George Floyd’s murder elucidates what happens when what is uniquely African becomes a national fixation. When what is uniquely African becomes a national fixation, our trajectory becomes weaponized.
It is not about who says his name or who shows up at the “protests” or marches. Floyd showed this generation what the Abolitionist Movement and the March on Washington showed our elders and ancestors, that the quest for “rights” draws a crowd, but the plight for liberation requires courage and conjures national reservation. Why? Because a nation that flourishes in the continual bondage of black people will never publicize, participate in, or orchestrate black liberation.
It is, however, about those who chanted and tweeted “I can’t breathe,” but voted for those who continue to suffocate us. It is about those who cite George Floyd as a face of importance without regard for the faces that he represents. George Floyd was not just a black man asxphiated in broad daylight during a global pandemic. He is synonomous with the enslaved black people thrown from the ships, those beaten, torched, flogged to death in broad daylight, those hung front trees in front of smiling crowds. From Eugene Williams and Claude Neal, the names that inundate Ida B. Wells’ Southern Horrors, to those that evidence that blacks cannot jog, sleep, or even eat ice cream, in peace–George Floyd embodies the tragedy that is instrisically American.
If “they” matter, and they all do, not only does the phrase “lesser of two evils” cease to matter, it ceases to exist.
George Floyd’s American legacy yields hashtags, twitter and instagram posts, and hollow articles written in pseudo recognition of national fault, but these tenuous attempts to counter global racism highlight how this country continues to fail Floyd and all people of African descent.
Furthermore, George Floyd’s murder and mutilated legacy illuminate that black people continue to die so the African-Adjacent can live the lie of justice.
George Floyd, as a national fixture, is yet another supporting cast member in the hegemonic play called America. It is only when we resurrect him from the racist chokehold of those who fueled and benefited from the system that murdered him countless times before May 25, 2020, that Floyd becomes what he is, a black ancestor whose transition harbors the unspeakable lesson we can never forget to remember.
With all the communal, genuine love from black people in a global diaspora, may you, Mr. Floyd, rest in peace.