One year ago, a Minneapolis police officer squeezed the life out of George Floyd a minute at a time as the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man lay sprawled on the pavement. Onlookers were powerless to stop it, fellow officers unwilling.
Those minutes galvanized a movement, crystallizing the grief and rage from countless similar incidents that came before. This one death spurred millions across the nation and the world to march on behalf of a simple but too often ignored truth: Black lives matter.
A year later that movement has gained strength, sustained by a widening coalition of those determined to make this truth recognized. The difficulty here is not to be underestimated. It is not enough to say "All lives matter." That ignores the special horrors to which Black people have been subjected since slavery. It is not enough for allies to comfort themselves by saying "This is not who we are." It is, indeed, part of who we are as a country and has been for a long time.
But there is a bigger part, the part that committed to equality in the Constitution so long ago; that fought to end Jim Crow; that championed civil rights, and that now is being called on, at long last, to snuff out systemic racism in all its remaining forms.
Floyd's family traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for private meetings with congressional leaders and President Joe Biden. Former Officer Derek Chauvin has been tried, convicted and soon will be sentenced to prison. His fellow officers await their own trials. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the Minneapolis Police Department. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has cleared the U.S. House and awaits action in the Senate. The Minnesota Legislature continues to negotiate its own police reforms.
And yet there is much more to do. Not nearly enough has changed materially in the lives of Black Americans. Housing discrimination remains. Black maternal death rates are higher. They are incarcerated at higher rates. A disproportionately large number of them die at the hands of police, and too many are killed in the kind of gunfire that broke out Tuesday morning near George Floyd Square. The forces driving racial injustice are insidious, quietly leaking in wherever they find an opening, in whatever system exists.
We are all diminished by such injustice: Black, white, officer, civilian. We are all lifted up and empowered when we take action to combat it. Let us all, each in our own way, commit to that fight.