By David Ragland
The COVID-19 global pandemic sent us to our homes in our respective corners of the earth, causing us to stop and take stock of the material, spiritual, social, and systemic violence imposed on us all by the powers that be: our local, state, and federal governments.
No force, no other tragedy or pandemic has ever made the whole world stop all at once.
And now—with the COVID pandemic still a threat to our very lives—global uprisings, sparked by the ruthless police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, have brought tens of thousands of people to the streets.
Similarly, no other tragedy or act of the pandemic that is anti-Black racism has ever moved the world all at once.
George Floyd’s death was the proverbial straw. Before him were too many others. Say their names: Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Tony McDade. Manuel Ellis. Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford. Sandra Bland. Terence Crutcher. Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Renisha McBride. Philando Castile. Michael Brown Jr. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Charleena Lyles. Jordan Davis. John Crawford III. Walter Scott. Sean Bell. Trayvon Martin. Freddie Gray. Amadou Diallo. Oscar Grant. Anton Sterling. Malice Green. And countless others whose names may escape me at the moment, and whose names we do not publicly know.

We need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, rooted in repair, focused on reparations, that holds hearings around the country to tell the true history of this country—not the untruths we’ve been told in history books, but the theft of Indigenous peoples’ land, of the violent horror of chattel slavery, denial of opportunities in every aspect of American life, police violence and mass incarceration, resource-poor schools, health disparities, unaffordable housing, etc.

If we’re going to heal and move on, it is crucial that these developments are a part of the new normal.

Our children—children all over the world—are learning from this culture we’ve created for them, and what they’ve learned so far is violence against our communities. So many of our children, our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins have seen this violence repeatedly. They’ve seen their loved ones killed, the life choked out, shot out, snuffed out, in the same way the world saw George Floyd’s life taken from him by an officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

George Floyd’s story has been the story of Black folks, Al Sharpton said while giving the eulogy at Floyd’s funeral. “Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being is you kept your knee on our neck.  We were smarter than the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck. What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services and in every area of American life. It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, “Get your knee off our necks!”

In this new movement of mass protest against police violence, against anti-Black racism, against white supremacy and the racist institutions it upholds, we are saying no more reforms. We will settle for nothing less than total transformation.

Just as the New Deal sprang from the Great Depression and public health best practices were born in response to a previous plague, we need to embrace the bold transformative thinking that is arising in this moment.

I think the term “satisfaction,” used by the UN is appropriate. Satisfaction suggests a mental shift through multiple means including culture, formal education of every institution, and for the world, but explicitly centering how we’ve been miseducated about each other.

The future is upon us, but it must be one that we can choose and see ourselves in.  This requires a local, national, and global effort. Maybe then, reconciliation will be possible. But let us deal with truth and repair first.

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