George Floyd, BLM and MLK: A Legacy
What can we learn from the Incidents of the Summer of 2020?
How can we grow as a nation? Will we continue to live in the past, or will we finally take one leap forward into the future? The future where all people are treated equally under the law.
If there was one thing that the Killing of George Floyd exposed was that even in 2020 — some of our laws “on the books” are racist. And they create a racist police force.
Not racist police officers, but racist law enforcement.
Have we already forgotten the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? Have we lost sight of the promise that he hoped for? The Dream, he once spread across the National Mall in Washington D.C.?
Is there a way to bring these three forces together, George Floyd, #BLM and Dr. King?
If there was a way to do it — it might save a lot of innocent lives.
If there was a way to do it — it might make America great!
Yes, we could deliver on the promise of Thomas Jefferson who saw our great infant nation as a political experiment, one in which, he had hoped would change the face of governing across the planet.
Jefferson was correct in one respect. America and our democracy is unique and special. No other nation on earth allows its citizens to govern themselves they way Americans do.
Europe looks at America as a collection of differing ideas and opinions and they “believe” we can’t get along. But they are wrong. They over assume something about American Democracy that is untrue.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “we hold these truths to be self-evident” and they are — every American believes that these truths are obvious — self-evident. We are all granted the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
What other nation on earth, cares about its citizens’ happiness? None that I am aware of.
Only in America is every single citizen free to pursue their own definition of happiness. If you want to live in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, you can. If you want to live in the concrete jungle of New York City, you can.
If you want to become an actor, a painter, a teacher, a scientist, an astronaut — you can.
That is not reality in other countries. In Great Britain, if you speak with a certain accent, you are considered lower class. Imagine if we started judging Americans based on accents? How ludicrous is that?
In fact, it’s our myriad of accents that makes Americans unique and interesting to listen to. If you’re from Texas, well, y’all know what you sound like. Name me one person who does not like listening to Matthew McConaughey speak?
Just imagine a New York accent? Now a Boston Accent?
Is this how we define ourselves? By accents? By skin color? By political identity? Have we lost sight of the promise of the American Dream, the dream of Dr. King?
Dr. King did not say — exclude my white brothers and sisters, he said love my brothers and sisters. He said that we all have to live together and we all must build a better society — For All! Not just for some.
We have not reached the promised land. We are still fighting to overcome the injustices of the past and the injustices of the present — but can we agree on one thing — can we agree that the injustices will end here and now.
That we build a future society in which injustice and persecution and discrimination are things we study about and read about in history books, and not things we discuss and read about in newspapers and blogs. How can we move forward and build a world in which it’s not legal to shoot people?
How can we move forward and build a world in which it’s not legal to throw people in jail for misdemeanors and non-violent crimes.
We are perfectly comfortable with receiving a ticket for parking violations, why can’t we be perfectly comfortable with receiving a ticket for stealing or shoplifting?
Our court system and our jail system should only be handling violent crimes, crimes that harm people physically — crimes that involve weapons.
George Floyd was killed for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill. Think about that.
Think about the cash you have in your pocket. Is it all legal tender? Are you holding a counterfeit bill? Some of you are. With illegal activity on the rise around the world and the counterfeiting of US dollars at an all time high, many Americans are passing counterfeit bills as we speak — and you didn’t even know it.
Do you think a police officer has the right to touch your person for passing a counterfeit bill?
Here’s a novel approach. What if the counterfeit bill was confiscated? Yes, George Floyd had to give up the bill. He had to return any items he illegally purchased and he was sent home. No ticket. No arrest. No choking on the streets of Minnesota.
What is George Floyd’s punishment? He lost the bill. He can’t pay for things with counterfeit bills. He’s not doing any better than he was before he was caught, in fact, he lost the illegal $20. He’s doing worse because he was caught, but trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill is not cause for alarm. Not at the level the Minnesota police department seemed to think.
But the law says — police officers MUST detain the suspect. So they did.
Ask U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar about the law — she is very familiar with criminal code in Minnesota, since she served as Hennepin County’s attorney from 1999–2006. Senator Klobuchar saw fit to prosecute people arrested for misdemeanor crimes, but she did not see fit to prosecute the officer who later killed George Floyd, despite repeated complaints and substantial evidence that the officer was unfit to serve.
Senator Klobuchar failed the Minnesota Police Department, she failed the people of Minnesota and she failed to make people safer.
Is there a way to stop the persecution? Is there a way to end the legal discrimination? It’s not fair or American to treat people differently.
It’s not what Thomas Jefferson hoped for when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. He knew, as did all the American Colonists that the society they lived in — the 18th Century was far from perfect. But they knew that without the Constitution — no other government could ever make a better society.
Too often, historian scholars and constitutional experts try to extrapolate too much from the federalists, the founding fathers and Jefferson and Washington. At the heart of their message — be free, be equal and try to make America better for the next generation. Do not stay stagnant, do not get complacent. This nation was built on good ideals and those ideals will stand the test of time.
But we got stagnant and we did stop making our society more free and more equal. We forgot the message of Dr. King. How? How could we forget what he preached? What he bellowed from deep within his soul — the unalienable truth that we are all free people.
I propose this one idea. I challenge all Americans to this one thought.
What if we made MLK day, a national day of memoriam. In the honor and justice for the fight that Dr. King started, we use that one day to remember all the lives that have been lost and continue to be lost to the fight for equality and justice for all.
Yes, we use that day to read the names of the fallen. The innocent victims to racial injustice. Remembering the victims and the fallen is American.
We memorialize the fallen from Vietnam. We memorialize the fallen from 9/11. We should also give the same respect to the fallen of racial intolerance and injustice.
Let’s read the names of all the fallen on MLK day and make it a national memorial for injustice and inequality. And the list of names should end with the one name that made us look inward at our own injustice — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
MLK day is January 18, 2021.