On Memorial Day May 25 th , 2020; during the CoVid-19 Pandemic, raging in our world an event happened that changed everything. George Floyd was murdered at the hands (knee) of an 18-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Force. The officer had over 15 prior citizens’ complaints of the use of excessive force. The officer planted his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck-for 8 minutes and 46 seconds; he cried I can’t breathe. This horrendous event should never have happened. Mr. Floyd received the death penalty without being charged, without a judge and without a jury of his peers…he died at the hands of those that are responsible for our public safety. Since 5/25/2020 Demonstrations have taken place in cities and countries around the world demanding Police Reform/Defunding.
Most Americans 7 out of 10 say race relations in the U.S. are bad and getting worse. Over 60% feel it has become more common for individuals to express racist or racially insensitive remarks since Donald Trump became President. Race relations are tenuous and as a society we need to make it a priority to change the current “social norms”. Black men and women should not be in fear for their lives every time they have an encounter with a police officer. The police’s role in communities has become militaristic; instead of “protect and serve” as their goal they have been obtaining Military Style weapons and have lost the “Community Police Prevention Actions”. A traffic stop should not become the death penalty!
Trump’s handling of this issue has been “law and order” and encouraging violence. He tweeted “when the looting starts the shooting starts”. People not seeing discrimination where it exists is a bigger problem in the U.S. than people want to acknowledge. Systemic racism in the United States has devalued and dehumanized the lives of Black Americans. We must take action now. The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws have left a large hole in our society. Racism and systemic oppression need to be discussed at the highest level and laws need to be drafted that gives equal opportunity for all Americans’. Racial inequity is a public health problem. “All men are created equally”, police brutality is one of many discriminatory issues that negatively impact Black Americans, housing, education, healthcare, employment, over represented in prison population, poverty and various other negative health indicators. (Race in America 2019)
Juneteenth celebrates the freedom of enslaved people in the United States and the end of the Civil War. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation, declared enslaved people in the Confederacy free-if Union won the War. The Proclamation turned the war into a fight for FREEDOM. At the end of the war 200,000 black soldiers had joined the fight, spreading news of freedom as they fought their way through the South. (National Geographic, Sidney Combs 2019).
Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Since Texas was one of the last strongholds of the South, the 250,000 enslaved people in Texas did not learn of their freedom until Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and announced enslaved people are now free. This announcement came over 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. (12 things you might not know about Juneteenth, Stacy Conradt 6/19/2018.)
According to historian James Smallwood, many slave owners deliberately did not give the information until after the harvest, and some beyond that. Despite the announcement, Texas slave owners were not eager to part with what they felt was their property. When freed people tried to leave, many were beaten, lynched, or murdered. “They would catch freed slaves swimming across the Sabine River and shoot them”.
With the announcement by General Granger, on June 19th, 1865 that the President had issued a proclamation, all slaves are free. This involves equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and new ties between employer and hired labor.” Initial Juneteenth celebrations commemorating the end of slavery spread across the South. In 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize June 19th as a state holiday, which it did with legislation. Juneteenth is recognized in nearly every state, and there is an effort underway for federal recognition. This Juneteenth, the Movement for Black Lives and many partner organizations are leading actions across the country to defund the police, invest in Black communities, and call for Trump to resign.
“Juneteenth is a day that honors Black freedom and Black resistance, and centers Black people’s unique contribution to the struggle for justice in the U.S. This Juneteenth is a rare moment for our communities to proclaim in one voice that Black Lives Matter, and that we won’t tolerate anything less than justice for all our people.” https://sixnineteen.com/about/
Tulsa Race Massacre
The Tulsa race massacre of 1921 took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921. Tulsa’s Greenwood District, known as the nation’s “Black Wall Street,” was one of the most prosperous Black American communities in the United States. On May 31st a mob inflamed by rumors that a young black man had raped a white girl. The blood bath lasted for 18 hours. More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals and as many as 6,000 black residents were interned at large facilities. This massacre has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history”. The attack, carried out on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district-at that time the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as “Black Wall Street”.
Systemic racism must be addressed and eradicated. Police must be open to making major changes to the systems in place that continue to allow and reinforce the “them” vs “us” approach to community policing. Demonstrations around the world are calling for changes in policies and protocols that “allow” choke holes, no-knock subpoenas, excessive force, profiling and accountability. There are also calls to defund the police and invest in Black communities through education, housing, jobs and more.
“White privilege” refers to societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political or economic circumstances (Wikipedia) “Birthright” a particular right of possession or privilege one has from birth. White Nationalist – a type of nationalism or pan-nationalism which espouses the belief that white people are a race and seeks to develop and maintain a white racial and national identity. They with and are attached to the concept of a white nation” make America white again” is their war cry.
Since the passage of the 13th Amendment by Congress on January 31, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States, passed the Senate on April 8, 1864, and the House on January 31,1865. Since then every time Black Americans make clear advances toward full participation in the greater society they have been greeted with roadblocks. The end of slavery was met by Black Codes and Jim Crow laws, the 1954 Brown vs the Board of Education ruling was met with shutting down public schools throughout the South and using tax dollars paid for segregated white private schools. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlaw’s discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.
As a society we must end the systemic racism present in the United States. The legacy of slavery, devaluing of human life, lynching’s and Jim Crow laws. There is a continuous struggle between the “haves” and the “have nots”. Those that have the means and resources are served a different set of rules and justice than persons of color. Americans that are Black are portrayed as criminals by media, less than human, “3/5ths Compromise” (United States Constitution race, class and gender,2007)
While people of color were suffering from white supremacy, all women were suffering from male supremacy. Neither white women or enslaved people could hold office, serve on juries, vote, obtain ownership of property in their own name and married women were denied the legal capacity to ho their own children. Discrimination, social injustice, gender, race, sexual orientation, disenfranchised, poverty, hatred and economic instability and the list goes on. We have an opportunity to embrace “real change; not lip service. We need to have open dialog. All players must be invited to the table. Police reform is at its highest level of “emergency” and since Mr. Floyd was heard saying “I can’t breathe”, other police encounters in other states have had police using excessive force! This violence did not start with George Floyd’s death, but we can say: it must end NOW.
We stand in solidarity with all Black Americans in mourning for their loss of a loved one. No mother should have to identify their 14-year-old son in a Morgue secondarily to being misidentified and shot by police. We are one community and as an organization that values diversity, equality and inclusion we stand with Black Lives Matter. We are passionate about serving members of our community and invite you to Stand up, speak up and Speak out against oppression and systemic racism. We are defined by how we treat people, as human beings. Our moral compass says if everyone isn’t free then no one is free. Freedom requires responsibility for one’s own actions. We abhor hate based organizations! Hate destroys the soul and dehumanizes. Demonstrations and protest continue; the streets are filled with people of all colors, race, sexual orientation, SES, education and age groups. They are gathering in the streets, parks and office buildings. Old, young and in between are risking their own health during this COVID-19 pandemic to gather in the streets and demand change. We cannot ignore the cries of mothers and fathers as they try to understand; “how my boy was shot in the back” by a police officer. We must remain steadfast and demand equality for all, concrete, obtainable change is going to take mass public outcry for our leaders to get off their collective asses and finally take action and dismantle the systems that led to the deaths of countless Black Americans.
We are all in this together and if we are truly invested in change, it will occur as long as we are alive, we must fight for equality and justice for all. I believe in humans. Humanity is depending on its leaders to do the right thing. Let’s move forward with our mission: GYCC is a 501-(c)(3) organization that provides an umbrella of resources, support, and connection to the LGBTQ+ community, friends, family, and allies across Yavapai County and Northern Arizona. GYCC provides a bridge between people in need and the organizations who serve them.
Patricia K Beitel RN,MSN (retired)