George Floyd: A Year Later, What Has Actually Changed?
By Charis Owen
The Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 were sparked by the unlawful murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, May 25th; from this came worldwide demonstrations against the racial violence against Black men and women. Political and legal change has been made in small increments towards a real and permanent change but have these protests only really brought to light the injustices and have yet to fix a broken system? From his murder many came forward and more cases were found proving that this is really worse than it seems. Police violence against Black people has not decreased; in fact since the protests more people are aware of the threat and it has made the lack of a change in attitude more obvious. Derek Chauvin, the police officer that murdered Floyd, has however since been charged with three counts of murder, but this does not bring George Floyd back and is not much of a win; however, it does get a bad person, a bad policeman, off the streets and unbale to do it again. The phrase “I can’t breathe” was said as a part of the protest at the complete disbelief that something that is so natural and should be a guarantee was the reason that their life was taken away. Everytown Research showed that gun violence has disproportionately affected Black Americans, who experience nearly 10 times the gun homicides and 3 times the fatal police shootings of white Americans.
What has been made clear over the past year is the importance of social media in shaping opinions and the ease in which it is spread. Allowing for more all over the globe to take part in the outrage, forming a sense of community that could not have otherwise existed. There was also the chance for more education on these important lessons of justice, equality, and the right to vote. The video of his death is what originally sparked the outrage, and this meant his name and his message was seen by those who might not have seen before. Social media also meant that other names came out of those that had lost their lives to police violence; Rayshard Brooks, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, and Stephon Clark. Between 2014 and 2020 the United States killed at least 7680 people and 25% of those were Black. These stories are heart-breaking to hear, its instances when these people are standing innocently by, perhaps holding something as inconspicuous as gun and police see this as a threat, they see a Black person doing something they cannot immediately make out and take that as a sign to shoot, and not to disarm but to kill. The fact that it is still legal to carry guns as police officers in America has only furthered this and despite all, there has been no permanent and good enough change. Social media may have made no legal changes, but it has provided some form of accountability, and a year later this is even more needed.
Whatever progress was made in the last year, may have been an improvement but nevertheless it should not have taken until 2020 to achieve small steps. Echoing the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s showed that there is political and de facto change but when it comes to de jure change there is significantly less. As well as that, those that are most to be protecting and enforcing the laws are the ones causing the harm and creating an atmosphere of terror where there should be safety. Some of the proposed bills in American legislation include: the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the Ending Qualified Immunity Act and the BREATHE Act. What must be remembered is that Chauvin’s verdict is an anomaly, many police officers have gotten away with worse, around 98.3% of police killings between 2013 and 2020 never resulted in a charge. Since George Floyd was murdered the US police have killed a further 1,050 people.
This is not just an American problem, the UK, while not on the same scale, is not innocent. The names may not make the same international headlines, but Black people are still disproportionately killed by police and in the 21st century this should not be as big of a problem as it is. Black people should not be scared of the people who swore to protect. So one year from the murder of George Floyd and the outlook is still bleak, there has been no prevention and social media has only highlighted how unjust the system really is.