As this somber day comes to a close, we write with grief and resolve to reflect on the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.
Floyd’s murder by the Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin catalyzed months of mass mobilization and ushered in a new era in the struggle for racial justice. This once-in-a-generation mobilization that activated millions of Americans from all races and genders has led to new and powerful demands for accountability and justice across American institutions.
Yet, from George Floyd’s murder has sprung a competing, diametrically opposed mobilization. In response to the widespread challenge to understand and address the matrix of oppressive conditions that led to Floyd’s death, a backlash that seeks to squash anti-racist discourse has taken hold in states across the country. This McCarthyist force is already achieving legislative victories in efforts to silence the very conversations about anti-Black racism and white supremacy that underwrite Floyd’s killing.
This censoring of anti-racist frameworks — structural racism, intersectionality, critical race theory, and implicit bias — is a coordinated right-wing response to the racial reckoning currently underway. To continue to mobilize anti-racist constituencies, we have to see this backlash for what it is: an effort to weaponize the Floyd reckoning to gin up the right-wing base, and to ensure that racial justice remains a divisive issue for future generations. We are watching a grievance-fueled backlash unwrite core democratic principles of freedom of speech, protest, and democratic participation.
We have no choice but to resist — to keep our eyes on the prize of racial equality as well as on the obstacles that are designed to disrupt our momentum.
This is why we support police reform as well as the 1619 Project — a project that uncovers the roots of racial hierarchy that stretch back to our very founding. It is why we support the families of Black people killed by the police as well as intersectionality and critical race theory — prisms that are necessary to see the lethal consequences that colorblind and single-issue framings do not allow us to see. And it is why we denounce both vote suppression that seeks to weaken our political power as well as efforts to render the very injustices that millions have protested against literally unspeakable.
After all, we at AAPF realize that the battle for racial justice is a battle over the material conditions of our lives as well as our capacity to name them. We know that to fight for justice, we have to be able to name injustice.
On this day, we re-dedicate our efforts to overcome this war on our history, on our ideas, on our speech, and on our bodies.
On this day, we say: “George Floyd, rest in peace – rest in power.” And we will continue to fight — in every way we can — to ensure that the ambitious and urgent reimagining of the world we want will not be waylaid by those who wish to coerce us into silence under the lethal knee of American racism.
Join us in our fight to tell our truths so that we can fight for justice. #TruthBeTold.
Kimberlé Crenshaw and the AAPF Team