Twenty-nine years, three months, and 22 days ago today, Rodney King was beaten by police in my native Los Angeles. Thirteen months and 26 days later, when his attackers were acquitted, my city erupted. I was there.
One month ago today, George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. The world erupted within days, and again I was here, in Los Angeles.
Much is still the same today as it was in 1992, and 1968, and 1955, and 1921, and 1863 and 1619. But a lot has changed, too. Now that I am becoming an elder, and I can recall history with my own mind and remember what I’ve seen with my own eyes, I feel a responsibility to chronicle the small, but significant shifts that may signal signs of growth and positive change – like hearty wildflowers sprouting boldly through broken concrete and toxic waste.
I chronicled some in my 2017 Huffington Post piece, “Los Angeles 1992: A Personal Reflection”, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the uprising. I was one of the few White people at Florence and Normandy for the community event. I like to think it would be different now.
Here are 25 other things I think are different this time around:
- The notion that George Floyd didn’t deserve to die, and that the police violence was unwarranted, isn’t controversial.
- Local politicians called for the officer to be charged, and within days of the murder – including the mayor of Minneapolis.
- The officers were fired, and within days of the murder.
- The actively murderous officer was charged, and within a week of the murder.
- Protests happened in cities other than where the events took place – in fact, in all 50 states – showing broad solidarity and empathy.
- Protests were international and took place in nearly 20 countries, including Canada, Iran, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, England, Japan, Brazil, Spain, Senegal, Denmark, Scotland, South Korea, Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Australia, Poland, Turkey, Switzerland, and Portugal (see NPR coverage and also coverage in The Atlantic). Thousands defied a ban in Paris to protest, and New Zealanders performed a haka in front of the U.S. Consulate in Auckland.
- Rioting and protests were not universally condemned by politicians. Instead, many expressed empathy and solidarity, as well as a macro/systemic understanding of what lead to the anger and rioting in the first place.
- Protestors were much more racially diverse, and looters were purposefully targeting upscale locations and businesses (see coverage from Los Angeles Times and PBS).
- Within a week of the murders, there was mainstream awareness that white supremacists, agitators and accelerationists were infiltrating protests and instigating violence and vandalism
- Names besides George Floyd’s and incidents beyond his murder were commonly included in communication about this one incident, showing mainstream big picture thinking.
- Local leaders took meaningful action. The University of Minnesota publicly severed all optional ties with the Minneapolis Police Department, two days after the murder. Minneapolis Public Schools followed one week later.
- Some small business owners whose businesses were destroyed or impacted by the rioting – including non-Black people – expressed empathy for the rioters and a big picture understanding of the situation, saying things like “my business and property can be replaced, lives cannot.” (See press coverage from Minneapolis and Washington, DC. One example: Michelle Brown of Teaism).
- Mainstream newspapers printed op-ed pieces saying things like “I’m tired of watching some white people be more upset by those who are protesting racism as opposed to the racism itself” (LZ Granderson, Los Angeles Times).
- Some White politicians publicly said Black Lives Matter (New Mexico, California).
- A politician said “F the President” out loud during a news conference, with calm and clear intent regarding his response to the murder (Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot).
- False communication from the POTUS about the situation were flagged as dangerous by a major media company (Twitter).
- Communications from many organizations with missions unrelated (directly) to racism and social justice named recent events, and expressed empathy, solidarity and a macro understanding of inequities, as well as the limitations of their power, knowledge and solutions.
- Major companies stated Black Lives Matter, including Twitter, Peloton, Netflix, Intel, Saturday Night Live, Amazon (see CNN coverage).
- Companies saying something about the situation included other major corporations such as Facebook, Nike and several major banks (see coverage on CNBC).
- Words like “white supremacy”, “white privilege”, “white fragility” and “structural racism” are mainstream and increasingly uncontroversial.
- Amy Cooper was fired from her job – within days – after trying to use her white privilege and white tears to terrorize a Black man.
- While often performative, it’s still significant that in several cities, police joined protestors or took a knee (see coverage in Forbes).
- More and more individuals – including White people – are publicly saying Black Lives Matter and actively pursuing education and activism.
- While performative, the Washington, DC mayor painted Black Lives Matter on the street, which is significant (see NBC coverage). Several cities followed suite.
- I saw a few BLM signs in yards and on cars in a nearby upscale, mostly White neighborhood.
Another Black man killed one month ago, and 25 signs of life sprouting up from the cracks and sludge of his murder.
What will you do next to ensure these sprouts grow strong roots and mighty branches, tearing down the rusted ruins of oppression and injustice?
By the way, here are the best articles I’ve read in the last month (all but one authored by a BIPOC):
- Why Now, White People? NPR, Codeswitch, Gene Demby
- Black Lives Don’t Matter, Black Bodies Do. Medium, M. Carmen Lane
- How The George Floyd Protests Are (And Aren’t) Like 1968, NPR, Codeswitch, Karen Grigsby Bates
- Is Your Company Actually Fighting Racism, or Just Talking About It? Harvard Business Review, Kira Hudson Banks, Richard Harvey
- Dear White People…10 Ways You Can Show Up for your Black Friends and Colleagues, Colorlines, Sunshine Muse
- 10 Ways Orgs Can Show Up for Black Lives Without Exploiting ‘Black Lives Matter’, Colorlines, Sunshine Muse