A family and community memorial for George Floyd was held in Minneapolis yesterday; Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison upgraded charges against the police officer who was responsible for Mr. Floyd’s death and three other cops who contributed to Floyd’s death; and protests—some marked by police brutality—continued all week, with the President threatening to impose martial law in remarks from the White House, while police cleared peaceful protesters from the square in front of the White House using tear gas.
In an interview with the New Yorker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi speculated about why protests are different this time: “While we see that a lot of anger and outrage and frustration was sparked by the barbaric murder of George Floyd, it’s also clear to me that we have been sitting in our homes, navigating the pandemic, dealing with loved ones being sick, dealing with a great deal of fear and concern about what the day and the future will hold. We have millions of people who have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment and are living paycheck to paycheck and hand to mouth, and I believe they are just thoroughly fed up and thoroughly beside themselves with grief and concern and despair because the government does not seem to have a plan of action that is dignified and comprehensive and seeks to address the core concerns that the average American has. And so my belief and my view of these protests is that they are different because they are marked by a period that has been deeply personal to millions of Americans and residents of the United States, and that has them more tender or sensitive to what is going on. People who would normally have been at work now have time to go to a protest or a rally, and have time to think about why they have been struggling so much, and they are thinking, This actually isn’t right and I want to make time, and I have the ability to make time now and make my concerns heard. So I think it is markedly differently in terms of the volume of demands we are hearing. People are absolutely lifting up names like Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, but I think they are very clearly in the streets for themselves and their family members because they don’t know who is next, and they are also concerned about the economic realities that they are faced with.”
An op-ed in the NY Daily News connects the protests to the underlying inequities that have caused COVID-19 to be more deadly to African-American communities: “The data are clear: Structural racism underlies both lethal policing and the fact that black people have for centuries lived shorter, sicker lives — and are now over three times more likely to die of COVID-19 — compared to white Americans. As just one illustration, consider the inadequate provision of personal protective equipment for so-called “essential” workers, whose status as indispensable is belied by employers’ failure to ensure safe working conditions. Other examples abound, involving inequities in testing, health care, places to self-isolate, and protection of people in jails and prisons, along with policies that have disproportionately cast people of color and low-income workers out of work. Protesters are in the streets demonstrating against police brutality and white supremacy not because they are indifferent to the risk of COVID-19. They are doing what they can to protect themselves and their communities precisely because the institutions that are supposed to protect and serve them have been killing black people in this country far longer than the coronavirus has.”
Minneapolis public schools ended their contracts with the Minneapolis police department this week. “Before the vote Tuesday, said one community organizer, adults had for decades dismissed students’ insistence that school resource officers, meant to enforce safety measures, had in reality made them feel less safe… Two days after Floyd's death began to roil the city with protests and riots, the University of Minnesota said they would cut some ties with the Minneapolis Police Department. Shortly after, Minneapolis Public School board members introduced a resolution to end the school district’s own contract with police entirely. One called immediately for a special meeting. An onslaught of emails poured in from students and community members, one board member said… “This vote is about justice,” said Siad Ali, the board’s director, during the meeting Tuesday. “It’s about time we end this contract with the Minneapolis police. They do not meet our values, and therefore, we will have no business with this organization.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti each announced plans to divert some funding from local police departments to African-American communities. “We have been pushing for reparations for Black people here in San Francisco for decades. We have continued to see our organizations inequitably disregarded and disproportionately left out of receipt of vital resources,” said Supervisor Shamann Walton. “In these times of continued systemic and systematic oppression of Black people, we have to be innovative and strong with our solutions. In order to change this dynamic and provide real opportunity for equity, we need to repurpose resources and give them to Black-led organizations and communities in order to level the playing field and achieve successful outcomes. This is a concrete, bold and immediate step towards true reparations for Black people. I’m excited to lead on this with Mayor Breed.”
Three young men from the San Diego Making Connections site wrote an op-ed for the San Diego Union Tribune on why they’re protesting: “We are young black men from the East African community of City Heights in San Diego. Because of our immigrant backgrounds, we have a different perspective from many of our African American peers. Some of us were born in East Africa and came to the United States as kids, and some of us are the children of refugees who fled to the U.S. from war-torn countries. We talk the same way, act the same way and dress the same way as African American youth. That’s who we are when we go into the outside world. But at home, we’re Somalian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Sudanese and Congolese. Many of us are Muslim. We also identify as immigrants and feel the sting of anti-immigrant hatred. That’s a lot of identities to handle. For our families, adjusting to life in the United States has meant adjusting to the realities of racism here. We get a lot of mixed messages — our parents tell us we should be able to call the police when we need help, but we know better. We learn in school that everybody is equal before the law, but we see with our own eyes that the law is enforced unequally when a black man dies under a policeman’s knee, begging for his life. We’re careful when we go to the store or walk around our neighborhoods. But this past weekend, we had to go out into the streets and march for justice.”
This week, Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Deb Haaland introduced a bill that would establish a Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Commission to "fully examine how slavery and racism have impacted laws and policies on the books," as Congresswoman Haaland said in introducing the resolution.
The Washington Post reports on how black workers and businesses have been hit hardest by COVID-19: “The first economic victims of the covid-19 crisis were the service industries that employ disproportionate numbers of black and brown workers. As a result, after the Great Lockdown this spring, fewer than half of all black adults had a job. The latest Labor Department figures, from April, show that 48.8 percent of black adults were employed, tying two months in the early 1980s for the worst rate on record. The equivalent rates for white and Hispanic Americans have also dropped precipitously, but remain above 50 percent…. There is real potential for an economic depression — a deep and long-lasting downturn — among black and Hispanic workers, even if the rest of the economy rebounds somewhat, says Darrick Hamilton, executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.” Think Global Health explores how women of color are at the intersection of COVID-19 risks and pressures: “One in every three jobs held by women has been deemed essential, and women of color are more likely to have essential jobs. Often underpaid and undervalued, women dominate in frontline jobs ranging from “the cashier to the emergency room nurse to the drugstore pharmacist to the home health aide.” While part of an invisible workforce, women keep “the country running” and care for those most in need of assistance.”
The New York Times reports on new research suggesting that students may lose up to a school year’s worth of academic gains due to school closures. “Racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps will most likely widen, because of disparities in access to computers, home internet connections and direct instruction from teachers…. Rural students have been especially cut off from their teachers. Only 27 percent of their districts required any instruction while schools were closed, according to the center. While almost every school has provided assignments for students to complete independently, that does not necessarily mean that teachers conducted remote lessons. Schools with many poor students sometimes chose to relax instructional expectations on teachers because they knew families did not have reliable access to home computers or internet connections able to stream video.”