This is How Covid-19 Made George Floyd the Tipping Point for Me
Out of so many atrocities against black people, here’s why this one has already bent the arc of history
I woke up this morning replaying the video of the George Floyd killing in my mind. It was horrifying, in part because it goes far beyond the usual “Jumpy cop shoots young black man because he thought [innocent object] was a gun” storyline. Not only that one man acted like a pit bull, refusing to release his grip until he’d drained the life out of one of the citizens he got paid to supposedly protect. But that three OTHER police officers stood by and ALLOWED it to happen. Not to mention the bystanders who were, understandably, too afraid to physically intervene for fear of getting killed themselves! Let alone the fact that since then, only one officer has been charged! (Imagine a bank robbery where only the person who actually took the money is charged for a crime, while the others who had guns and threatened bystanders were allowed to walk free. It would never happen.)
There’s no question about it, this was atrocious. But when I talked to my dad about the incident yesterday, he seemed confused about why THIS was the atrocity that sparked this degree of protest and upheaval in our country, after there have been so many others, even on camera in recent years.
It seemed pretty clear to me what was different about this one. Maybe it’s because I have degrees in Economics and Psychology from The University of Chicago. And because I was a research assistant at the Chicago Booth School of Business and Columbia University assisting on research in the fields of behavioral psychology and judgement & decision making. Needless to say, I spend more-than-the-usual amount of time and energy thinking about WHY people make the decisions that they do. I have plenty of ideas about what might have led the cops involved to each make the decisions that they did. But in this article, I want to discuss why I believe so many individuals have decided to participate in the protests that have happened since the murder. At the very least, I know this is what’s been true for me.
I believe that a significant part of what’s different this time has to do with our response to the covid-19 pandemic.
We Proved That, Together, We Can Create Change
The reality is that our nation mobilized when we got worried about our well-being because, well, #AllLivesMatter, right? State, local and federal government changed the laws — quickly. Individuals changed their daily habits — abruptly. Drastic change happened overnight and, although it didn’t happen perfectly, we all adapted and evolved quickly.
Except, it wasn’t actually for the sake of ALL of us, was it? In the beginning, we thought it was mostly just the elderly and immuno-compromised at risk. So even though #AllLivesMatter, we, as a nation, turned our world upside down to protect a *subset* of our population.
(Do you see where I’m headed with this?)
We PROVED to ourselves and to each other that when the stakes are high enough, change CAN happen.
We proved to ME that my choices, aligned with others, WILL actually make a difference.
Is it any wonder then, that people are more outraged than ever that we, as a country, will not make significant changes to the systems that kill and oppress black people on a daily basis?
Yes, you might say, but COVID was a matter of hundreds of thousands of lives, there haven’t been THAT many black men killed.
There haven’t? Not in a matter of months, maybe, but certainly in the past century? And what of the MILLIONS of black people in the cages we call prisons? These are human beings who are in prison for YEARS, decades, or even a lifetime — usually for the very same crimes that white people have also committed but either 1) never got caught committing (because they were white) 2) never not charged for (because they were white) or 3) got a lighter sentence for (because they were white).
Don’t tell me our response to Covid-19 was just about numbers. Black people have the numbers, if not more. The reason we mobilized for Covid-19 is because white people thought they (we) were at risk. Now that it’s been established that it is primarily black and brown people who have been hit the hardest, we are sailing forward with re-opening again. (I don’t know about you, but I am privileged enough to only have two friends I know personally who have lost family members to Covid so far. Unfortunately, I probably don’t have to tell you what color their skin is…)
The simple truth is that we, as Americans, have proven — without a shadow of doubt — that when we are motivated and work together, EVERYTHING can change remarkably quickly. New vocabulary, new norms, mind-boggling drops in gas prices, different ways of interacting with family, different ways of interacting with strangers, bigger butterflies, more birds, less smog. Nothing was not impacted by our decision to change our ways in regards to Covid-19.
The question is, now that we know we have this capability, what will we do with it next? The astonishing abuse of power and that we all watched, minute-to-minute, in the murder of George Floyd made us say “Hold up just one minute! If we can come together to create change because #ElderlyLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter, then why the HELL can’t we do it for black people? The only reason black people keep getting killed by cops is because we, as a country, have decided #BlackLivesDon’tMatter. But the truth is #BlackLivesMatter.
Before, I felt like I was only one person and I couldn’t really make a difference. And to be honest, as sad as it is to say, I’m not sure that watching the murder video unto itself would have been enough to motivate me to try to do something on my own. But the protests (and even the violence and looting) got through to me, as I hope this article will get through to you. They reminded me that I am NOT alone, and just like we mobilized for Covid-19, we can prove that #BlackLivesMatter.
We managed to flatten the Covid curve. Now let’s #amplifymelanatedvoices and find out how far that gets us. Then it will become clear what the next step is to keep our foot on the collective throttle and create the systemic change that will only happen when we, white people, decide to unite and take action to support #blacklives.
Wendy Garrido inspires brave-hearted souls to live their truth, speak their truth and share their gifts to make the world a better place.
Listen to (or read) her “Live Your Truth Manifesto” for FREE (no email required) at www.LiveYourTruthManifesto.com.