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By Leslie Redmond, Minneapolis civil rights lawyer
George Floyd’s brutal, modern day lynching two years ago today rang the alarms of injustice. The burning flames from the uprising made the world aware of Black Minnesotans’ plight. The only remaining question is what will it take for it to stop? How many Black people have to be murdered for Black lives to matter?
The world watched in horror as Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, used his knee as a noose to slowly lynch George Floyd on the pavement outside of a corner store for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds.
George Floyd’s murder led to civil unrest in Minneapolis, across the country, and even around the world, making it the largest movement for racial justice in history. Echoes of the Civil Rights Movement emerged through marches, mass demonstrations, and calls for an end to racialized police violence and oppression.
As a young civil rights lawyer, I grappled with the notion of history repeating itself and George Floyd becoming the latest victim of the power and control of white people and systems laying claim to Black bodies under the guise of legal authority.
White supremacy a threat in every generation
I grappled with the fact that the police killing of George Floyd took our society back to the savage reality of the lynching era in this country, which lasted from the 1830s to the 1950s and 1960s and resulted in over 3,500 lynchings, or extra-judicial killings of Black people.
The lynchings of Black people often included the cooperation, and sometimes participation, of law enforcement. Yet, there has never been a real reckoning of this history and its implications; and the subject is hardly covered in most law school classrooms.
As a matter of fact, the history of white supremacy and white terrorism inflicted upon Black bodies, and the interconnectedness of law enforcement is rarely taken seriously, investigated, and appropriately addressed by the powers-that-be. This has to change.
Under the Trump administration, we witnessed Black activists against police violence being labeled as terrorists, placed under surveillance, and labeled as Black-identity extremists. Meanwhile, actual white supremacists and terrorists have been allowed to form hate groups and plot and plan online, without any real consequences. They have even been allowed to infiltrate police forces, according to the FBI’s own troubling data. And yet, very little has been done to curb the threat of white supremacist groups and to disrupt their cozy connection to law enforcement.
Black people are not safe
Following George Floyd’s murder, white supremacists came to Minneapolis and burned down buildings, shot at people in Black neighborhoods, and terrorized our community to the point that we had to take up arms and defend ourselves.
Our community was already dealing with the trauma and grief of watching yet another Black man killed by police, while simultaneously having to protect ourselves from white supremacist violence. Neither elected officials, nor law enforcement, nor the media seemed to take these issues seriously.
Since then, we have seen the January 6, 2021 insurrection on Capitol Hill by white supremacists and the violence they inflicted upon those they encountered. Most recently, we have seen a white supremacist brutally murder ten Black people in a Buffalo, New York supermarket. When will these atrocities end? When will Black bodies be valued within our society? When will our humanity be recognized? These are the questions that persist two years since the police killing of George Floyd.
It’s taken two years to pass federal police reform legislation that still isn’t guaranteed to protect Black people. Minnesotans should be outraged. Americans should be outraged. The world should be outraged by what we are still witnessing. Black people are not safe.