730 days later: Has anything changed?
By: Dr: Sophia Bolt & Natalie McCabe Zwerger
We intended to hold space for the anniversary of the execution of George Floyd in this piece. We intended to name the slaughter in Buffalo. And we will. But once again we as a society are navigating the jarring reality of murders in an elementary school leaving 19 of our babies and 2 of their educators as victims of a culture that prioritizes guns over children. Sometimes it is hard to know where one violence ends and another begins in a country so steeped in white supremacy that it is invisibilized as typical, predictable and expected. The invitation to numbness is one we will not accept.
Two years ago today, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old Black man, was executed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. At the time, his murder sparked a national outrage and racial unrest. As many people found themselves in a lockdown and glued to their screens awaiting to hear next steps, the news coverage of George Floyd’s killing and the preceding protests filled our views. Many individuals, organizations, and companies began pledging to do better, be better, and take accountability for their part in upholding systemic racism.
Activist and educator, Dr. Dena Simmons, posed these questions last week:
Heeding Dr. Simmon’s challenge to reflect, we must be clear and define our values. If your organization believes in values such as equity, justice, and community, how are you living in and living out those values? Do you actually move in alignment with your DEI statements that boldly claim these values? As RE-Center Executive Director, Natalize McCabe Zwerger, called us to reflect during Black History Month - how are we reckoning everyday with the anti-Blackness that lives inside us, and lives out in our practices, policies, and decision making? And furthermore, how can we manifest our values if unaddressed anti-Blackness is at play?
We went back to what Executive Director McCabe Zwerger wrote days after the execution of George Floyd, directly to white people and those who benefit from white privilege:
This is the time for our call to action, for us to explicitly and intentionally demonstrate to Black people that we understand the weight of our racism, the weight of our privilege, the weight of our ignorance…that our silence and our inaction suffocated George Floyd. We are responsible.
This has not happened in the past 730 days at any noteworthy scale. It is easy to distance ourselves from this horrific violence and explain away why it does not represent us. Yet it would be a grave mistake to consider this an isolated “racially motivated” event. As the statement from the African American Policy Forum (AAFP) explains of the Buffalo massacre, “Racial terrorism is and always had been a group activity.” The racial terrorist was enabled by the ideologies and values that justified his actions. Now and everyday is the time to evaluate how we are holding ourselves accountable to values of equity and racial justice. As the AAFP statement cautions, “We cannot shake our heads and hope that the emerging white supremacist juggernaut will go away without investing in the complete and accurate history of these United States that reflects our antiracist values.”
If the execution of George Floyd two years ago pushed you to consider the values you hold and the way in which you do and do not operationalize them, commit to the idea that this is a daily practice. If you are in a leadership role with positional power, commit to evaluating the ways you and those you lead live in and live out your shared values. Sit with the wondering of: what has changed for me in the past 730 days? How do I move, work, live, and love differently now than I did on May 24, 2020? Why does that matter?
Ultimately, we are no different than we were 731 days ago if we cannot point to specific institutional practices that demonstrate a human-centered, intentional confrontation with anti-Blackness. Yet, we seem still incapable of connecting how our status as a carceral state and our over reliance on police, guns, and punitive policies in and out of schools are legacies of the history of enslavement. Until we can confront the historical truths that have now become contemporary reality, we will continue to bear witness without action, serve the privileged and dehumanize the oppressed, and never live into a possibility of a world where whiteness isn’t slowly degrading our humanity.
We don’t have all the answers but we have a deep commitment to critical inquiry and living our values which you can read below. Join us.
At RE-Center we advance justice by shifting systems & influencing policies, practices, and beliefs to cultivate the liberation, freedom, health, & well-being of Black & Brown people. We prioritize relationships that redistribute power, both identity-based & positional, & we foster opportunities for folx to be their full & whole selves. We practice love- the love of Black & Brown children, rejoicing in their sovereign humanity. We practice love of self, because feeling too small or too big has no place in justice work. We practice love so we may be curious, move from possibility, and have boundless imagination. We uphold spaces, places, & climates that honor the brilliance & joy of Black & Brown people & all historically excluded folx. We strive for community- locally & beyond - where we, as a non-profit organization, disavow white saviorship, hoarding resources, and living histories of colonization. We seek accountability- intentionally bearing the responsibility to serve the community, be in community, and hold space with community, as an embodied value that requires time and nourishment.
Dr. Bolt is a white, cis hetero non-disabled researcher & policy analyst.
Natalie is a white Puerto Rican, cis hetero non-disabled educator, advocate, non-profit leader, & mami with significant class privilege.