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More Than A Name

Image from Uprising 2020

When Hood Communist published a piece by the Anti- Police-Terror Project on the caravan protest for Steven Taylor, a 33-year-old Black father of three shot to death by a San Leandro police officer as he struggled with a mental health crisis in a local Walmart, the death of Ahmaud Arbery, shot to death by white vigilantes in Georgia late February, had just become a viral story. Around that same time, the death of Dreasjon “Sean” Reed, shot by Indianapolis police, was seen live on Facebook. Soon after the death of Breonna Taylor, an EMT shot multiple times by Louisville police while in her bed, became public. 

In the span of 3 weeks Black death at the hands of police officers and the white vigilantes who love (and wish to be) them, saturated news cycles, social media, and our everyday conversations. And then George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis.

Years from now we’ll still be debating on how and why Floyd’s death became significant enough to garner the reaction that it has, but there is no denying that, despite a growing pushing back against continuous viral images of Black Death, the kneel seen around the world catapulted into subsets of rebellion in major cities throughout the country. That weekend, as city to city, chanted “Justice for George Floyd”, Tony McDade, a Black Trans man, was murdered in broad daylight by Tallahassee police. 

In all of this death by the same forces under the same system of policing, there have been arguments stemming around the equity in platforms for and the reporting on Black Death.  Floyd’s death and the overwhelmingly emotional reaction to it garnered reactionary online discourse centering cis-hetero Black men solely, so much so that “Black men, I love you” and “I’m raising Black sons” became prominent social media posts only days after calling for justice for Breonna Taylor citing erasure of Black women.  This then resulted in a mass call to center Black women and girls in fatal deaths at the hands of police. When Tony McDade’s death was first announced, he was initially misgendered as both a form of continued violence and ironically as a way to assist in some Black women’s efforts to center Black women in the discussion of death by police. 

Instead of centering the forces responsible for these deaths by directly addressing over-policing, militarized policing and the politicians who love them, the public discourse has been squeezed into the narrow and individual analysis of cops who kill and subsequently their victims, but not the system of policing that allows for it to happen nor the root of that system. 

There can be no denying the mainstream narrative has been what is happening in our streets is due to the death of George Floyd. But is that the absolute truth? Is what we’re witnessing simply a reaction to Floyd’s death or is it a culmination of things that have occurred, not just in the consecutive weeks of state-sanctioned murders of Black people at the hands of police, but deaths that have been the result of the COVID- 19 pandemic and this country’s terrible response to it?

The names of the victims of state-sanctioned murders at the beginning of this article are people we are made aware of through the never-ending family and community efforts to make these names known. It should be noted, though, that they were not the only ones to have fatal encounters with police in these weeks of a global and deadly pandemic. As APTP mentioned in their piece on Steven Taylor, Taylor was one of 5 people to have been murdered in the Bay Area in the span of 3 weeks. Sean Reed is one of 3 deadly encounters with Indianapolis police in the span of 2 weeks. 

The countrywide haphazard struggle with COVID-19 has overwhelmingly affected Black communities. If we aren’t the majority of one of the almost 100,000 names that The New York Times shamelessly propagandized and flaunted as it’s cover, we are the “essential workers” made to appease the angst of the ruling class funding and pushing the “open up the economy” narratives. 

Under the context of this country’s lack of urgency to ensure the well being of its Black citizens during the weeks of the pandemic, perhaps the significance of Floyd’s death is that we all felt that proverbial knee holding us down for far too long and just couldn’t stand to see it happen again. Now countless cities are burning.

On Monday, however, mainstream media got the soundbite they needed when George Floyd’s brother, Terrence Floyd, “called for an end to the violent riots” insisting that the looting and burning “would not bring back his brother”. He continued saying, “I understand you all are upset, but I doubt you are half as upset as I am”. 

And herein lies the problem.

While Floyd’s brother’s personal grief is understandable, for many this is beyond his personal grief and their own. This is beyond the hashtag names issued to us every 28 hours. The comments Floyd’s brother made are exactly what’s wrong with individualizing these deaths. 

Derek Chauvin not only killed his brother but is responsible for the death of a 42-year-old indigenous man named Wayne Reyeswhich, a case tied to Biden VP frontrunner Amy Klobuchar who has a laundry list of uncharged cases involving officers under her belt. Chavin is connected to a system of policing that has killed thousands of us across age, gender, and sexual orientation. How could this only be about George Floyd? 

We have lost thousands and are still losing many of us to COVID-19 coupled with intentional medical neglect because of the 500-year-old racist and classist structures that sustain this country. We were on the brink of being sacrificed for the economy as “essential workers”, being sent back to work to die by the thousands some more. How could this only be about George Floyd? 

Millions on unemployment while still expected to pay full rent with an insulting one-time stimulus check  AS landlords are buying time to evict people, AS food prices surge and the Trump administration is still pushing to kick thousands off of SNAP. How could this only be about George Floyd? 

The people are rebelling over a multitude of pain, anguish, and plain ole’ Fed-upness that is all a rejection of this white supremacist imperialist capitalist patriarchal settler colonial nation that has exploited, looted from, and killed us in a number of ways for over a century. 

While George Floyd’s death is tragic, it surely isn’t overshadowed by the rebellions people are engaging in and witnessing throughout the country. It surely isn’t overshadowed in the ways the over ten deaths in the weeks of “quarantine” at the hands of cops have been. While his name can be heard in calls for justice from Minneapolis to Nairobi, from Oakland to Palestine, from Durham to Paris, he is not an anomaly. This is the reality for the Black diaspora at the hands of neoliberal and neocolonial Anti-Black powers that are the root of these constant rebellions. 

George Floyd’s death has become yet another catalyst for a TIRED people to rebel against a country that true justice can never be found in. His death should not be individualized but taken into the context of a long history of Black/ African anti-colonial struggle. 

More from this Writer

Erica Caines is a poet, writer and organizer in Baltimore and the DMV. She is an organizing committee member of the anti war coalition, the Black Alliance For Peace as well as an outreach member of the Black centered Ujima People’s Progress Party. Caines founded Liberation Through Reading in 2017 as a way to provide Black children with books that represent them and created the extension, a book club entitled Liberation Through Reading BC, to strengthen political education online and in our communities.

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