On Tuesday, May 26, 2020, a video surfaced of a Minnesota police officer pinning a 49 year-old black man named George Floyd to the ground by depressing his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed. Mr. Floyd was lying flat, begging to breathe. The police officer ignored his pleas, and Mr. Floyd succumbed.
The next day, the front page of the Miami Herald featured several stories about the Coronavirus and local efforts to return to normal, an article about two South Floridian appointees to the State Supreme Court, an article on Miami’s sewage providing clues to a Coronavirus rebound, and an article on Twitter adding fact-check warnings to Trump’s tweets. Buried further in the publication, on page 6 to be exact, was an article about the firing of the four Minneapolis cops involved in the murder of George Floyd. Thursday’s edition of the Herald (two days following the passing of George Floyd), similar front page stories abound, including an almost half-page photograph of a couple slurping drinks at the News Café along Ocean Drive on South Beach. Readers have to thumb back through the newspaper to page 7 to find an article about Mr. Floyd discussing his move from Houston to Minnesota in hopes of finding work. This was a hope that came to fruition. He did, until the pandemic took his job. Then, after allegedly making a purchase with a counterfeit bill, responding officers took his life.
Newspapers place stories based on reader interest and the Herald’s placements in the days following Mr. Floyd’s death speak volumes. What happened to George Floyd is a tragedy, a horrible and horrific thing, yet it is only one of many such tragedies that continue to occur in our country which garner inadequate interest and engagement by citizens and the government alike. Often there will be a public cry following such tragedies from the media, but it quickly fades away, not based on the media’s failures but on their realities, which require continuing interest to keep news stories “alive.”
The real problem here is the lack of continuing interest in keeping Black Americans alive. This country fought a civil war over the rights of Black Americans, and we amended our Constitution to guarantee equal protection for all. We have a national holiday to celebrate one of the great civil rights leaders and the achievements he facilitated on behalf of all Americans. Yet too quickly life returns to normal after a murder at the hands (or knees) of police officers who used their position to arrest and kill a defenseless suspect.
We need to remember. We need to never again return to that normal. Since the formation of our Republic, murder has been illegal. Unfortunately, it has not been equally applied by judges, juries, government leaders, and even everyday citizens. This must end.
Articles abound lauding the positive effects of the Coronavirus pandemic: working from home, spending more quality time with one’s family, etc. These positive effects are at least a part or feature of the pandemic forcing us to “take a beat,” slow down, and consider and focus on what is important to us. Life, above all, is most important.
George Floyd is important to us. Philando Castile is important to us. Eric Garner is important to us. Michael Brown is important to us. Freddie Gray is important to us. Sean Bell is important to us. Breonna Taylor is important to us. They and the hundreds more who have similarly perished are important to our continuing humanity. We must remember them. We must change because of them.