How George Floyd's Murder Sparked Change - OZY | A Modern Media Company

How George Floyd's Murder Sparked Change

How George Floyd's Murder Sparked Change

By Liam Jamieson, Charu Sudan Kasturi, Nick Fouriezos, Carlos Watson and Toyloy Brown III

By Liam Jamieson, Charu Sudan Kasturi, Nick Fouriezos, Carlos Watson and Toyloy Brown III

This is a moment for solemn reflection across America. One year after the murder of George Floyd, we can see progress in the fight for racial justice, as well as the long road ahead to achieving true equality. To mark this tragic anniversary, today’s Daily Dose offers a collection of important ideas we’ve seen from various communities, intellectuals and activists in efforts to help Reset America. Please share your thoughts on how we can stamp out police brutality, systemic racism and the wealth gap by emailing me.

real changes on the ground 

George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The sweeping police reform bill was introduced last June and is now making its rounds through the Capitol. Though legislators were  supposed to be ready to vote by today, the bill will not meet this deadline, but chief architect of the bill Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) believes the legislation could be passed in the coming weeks. The proposed bill includes key reforms of policing practices. It bans dangerous chokeholds at the federal level, overhauls qualified immunity for officers and creates a national police misconduct registry to prevent police departments from unknowingly hiring officers who have been fired for misconduct at another department. 

Department Defunding. Although the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is still up in the air at the federal level, there has already been some police reform at the municipal level. “Defund the police” has become one of the rallying cries of the Black Lives Matter movement around the country. While the slogan has been controversial and often misunderstood, activists have successfully pressured local lawmakers into reallocating police funding toward public programs that better address the root causes of crime and poverty, such as housing, mental health, education and food access. Though historically ignored, calls for defunding over the past year have prompted more than 20 major U.S. cities to reduce their police budgets. According to research by the Barnard Center for Research on Women, U.S. police departments collectively lost $840 million in funding in 2020, with at least $160 million ploughed into community programs.  

No More No-Knock. After a botched police raid resulted in the death of 26-year-old Louisville EMT Breonna Taylor, Kentucky’s largest city passed “Breonna’s Law,” effectively banning no-knock search warrants. Its implementation prompted greater movements to limit and ban the controversial warrants around the country, including a federal ban of them included in the proposed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Though not a complete ban, the Kentucky governor signed statewide legislation last month significantly limiting the use of the warrant with exceptions only under very specific circumstances, such as when the alleged crime committed would qualify the person as a violent offender, or situations when giving notice of entry would endanger someone’s life.

Banking Breakthrough. Countrywide, changes are extending beyond police reform. Initiatives are also in place to encourage companies and institutions to implement reparations for Black communities disadvantaged as a result of slavery and its lasting effects. Amalgamated Bank, the largest union-owned bank in the U.S., became the first major American bank to endorse HR 40, a bill that, if passed, would establish a commission to study and develop reparations for African Americans. The Bank of America is also answering calls for reparations, providing grants of up to $25,000 for entrepreneurs of color through the Sweet Auburn Works Retail Accelerator Fund, part of their greater $1.25 billion pledge to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. 

Higher Education Equity. Universities are also feeling the pressure, as students and community members are calling for academic institutions — including Brown, Georgetown and the University of Georgia — to atone for legacies of slavery and discrimination through reparations for slave descendants, programs funding their surrounding Black communities and greater efforts to establish racial equity on campus. Virginia also recently passed a bill that mandates five of the state’s universities to fundraise or allocate endowment funds toward scholarships and economic development programs for the descendants of slaves who worked at the schools and other members of their communities. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have also long struggled with discriminatory funding from the state, though Maryland last year voted to pay reparations worth more than half a billion dollars as compensation to its four HBCUs.  

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big ideas

Embrace Big Data. It’s commonly said in business that, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Government needs to follow suit. Uncle Sam really doesn’t know how often police use force, much less why they do so or even whether the force used was justifiable. There’s no data for high-speed car chases; only one state, Utah, tracks forcible entries by police. Even worse, police officials have no idea how many people are arrested but later proven innocent or released without facing a single charge. The Department of Justice has already been granted the right by Congress to require use-of-force data tracking, but it has never wielded that lofty power, content to leave the tracking to news outlets and academic institutions. Some police departments, though, are beginning to open up their use-of-force data for external scrutiny: San Francisco law enforcement shares the numbers with Seattle University academics for analysis. Will other departments follow suit?

Bail Out Protesters — and End Cash Bail for Good. Change, whether incremental or widespread, wouldn’t have happened at all without protesters putting themselves at risk and braving the possibility of police brutality to push for change. The past year has seen a shift in how such activists are treated. Businesses are increasingly throwing their support behind activist causes, and celebrities from Jameela Jamil to Harry Styles have banded together to pay bail for demonstrators who were imprisoned during protests. The cash bail system criminalizes poverty and exacerbates the cycle by putting the accused at risk of losing their jobs, families and homes in the process. Read More on OZY

From Barbers to Life Savers. The American health care system has disproportionately poor outcomes for patients of color, as OZY explored in a special episode of The Carlos Watson Show segment “Real Talk, Real Change.” Meanwhile, Michael DeVore, who earned an OZY Genius Award in 2017 to work on his app connecting college students to cheaper haircuts, has responded by helping barbers on his Live Chair platform connect Black customers with basic medical screening checks that can be hugely important in preventing deadly conditions that African Americans are more prone to, from colon cancer to high blood pressure. 

Eliminate the First Two Years of College. Let’s stop pretending those two years are significant to a student’s academic competence or workplace readiness. Student loans are crippling the finances of many Americans, and Black Americans are hit particularly hard with a quadruple whammy: They are more likely to take on student debt, owe more debt on average, are still less likely to finish with a degree and earn less when they do graduate. The vast majority of classes done in the first two years of college are focused on general education, with little direct career application. What’s worse, a recent study has shown those classes deliver little in terms of intellectual gain — with no statistically significant increase in critical thinking, complex reasoning or writing ability. The Biden administration’s shift toward financially emphasizing two-year community college programs — by planning to offer them tuition free — is a meaningful step toward acknowledging the weaknesses of the current four-year system. 

Rethink School Rankings. Writer Malcolm Gladwell recently joined us for OZY Fest, where he talked about the power of historically Black colleges and universities. “We basically are measuring all of the wrong things,” he says, referring to U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings. “[HBCUs] are doing amazing things that are getting dissed by the rankings … [they] essentially tell you that HBCUs are at the bottom, and fancy, expensive, small liberal arts colleges in New England are at the top. And that is not a reflection of what they actually do as educational institutions …. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s a reflection of our values.” His solution? Rework ranking parameters so that they capture attributes such as the community spirit that HBCUs build, or their high graduation rates with low funding. By giving them more love, society would guarantee that HBCUs do even better in the future. Watch Now.

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interesting people in the justice conversation

Nupol Kiazolu. 2036. That is the year 20-year-old social activist and community organizer Nupol Kiazolu says she will become the president of the United States. The Brooklyn native has already served as the president of the Youth Coalition of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York and has organized hundreds of marches in the more than eight years she has been an activist. Kiazolu is from the poorest congressional district in Brooklyn and uses the challenges she has faced and continues to experience to inspire her to push through and to be a voice of change. Kiazolu is a political science and pre-law major at Hampton University, an HBCU, and has managed to take 18 hours of classes a week while still organizing demonstrations. 

Kendrick Sampson. You may recognize Kendrick Sampson from his acting roles in shows like HBO’s Insecure and ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder. But he is also an activist and the co-founder of BLD PWR (pronounced “build power”), a nonprofit, personalized training program meant to help entertainers, artists and other creatives use their platform to advance radical social change. The organization is also geared toward community building. As an actor, Sampson has been inclined to portray Black male characters who showcase nuance and complexity. Offscreen, he uses his influence as a public figure to voice his opinion on intersectional oppression, spread resources and build solidarity among inspired change-makers. 

Stacey Abrams. From bestselling Harlequin romance novelist and Georgia house minority leader to the face of voting rights, Stacey Abrams, 47, has done it all. After unsuccessfully running for governor of Georgia, in a 2018 election rife with electoral irregularities and questionable voter purges, Abrams, who helped flip Georgia blue in the past year, has become an eloquent advocate for fairness in America’s political system. 

Coleman Hughes. Not too many people can say they testified before Congress at the age of 23. But Coleman Hughes can, having argued against reparations in 2019 opposite pro-reparations writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Now 25, Hughes is a contributing editor at the City Journal specializing in race, public policy and applied ethics and was a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is also the host of the podcast Conversations With Coleman and last year was featured on Forbes’ 30 Under 30. Last June, the northern New Jersey native wrote an article for the City Journal entitled “Stories and Data: Reflections on race, riots, and police” in response to the unrest after the death of George Floyd.

Worth Your Attention. There are many more people working at the front lines of activism across America and the world today, from Alicia Garza and Jalen Thompson to Assa Traoré and Charlamagne Tha God. Read More on OZY 

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how the world has changed

Indigenous Lives Matter. Police officers try to arrest a man. They say he resists. Soon after, he is dead, a victim of police violence. It was the story of George Floyd, and it was also the story of Kumanjayi Walker, an Aboriginal Australian who was killed in police violence in November 2019. Like dozens of similar cases, this one sparked outrage that was soon overrun by other news . . . until Floyd’s murder and the global protests that followed ignited an “Indigenous Lives Matter” movement. Now, discriminatory treatment of native communities has gained prominence in Australian politics. Yet acts of discrimination rose dramatically in 2019, research shows. Experts argue the rise was due in part to the growing polarization against minority communities in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

European Reckoning. For generations, an 18-foot statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, England had served as a reminder of his “philanthropy.” But Colston’s charity was always tainted by blood: He made his wealth as a slave trader. After 125 years on a pedestal, Colston’s statue was yanked down and dumped into the channel last June as the U.K. grappled with its historical blindness to its racist icons. The University of Bristol, in particular, has promised a deep review of the city’s ties with transatlantic slave trade, led by Cameroon-born Olivette Otele, Britain’s first Black female history profesor. The demand for change is also echoing in France, where Black Lives Matter protests erupted last year, seeking justice for young men like Adama Traore who have died at the hands of the police.

#EndSARS. The protests in the U.S. against police violence echoed around the world — and nowhere more so than in Africa, especially in the continent’s most populous nation: Nigeria. A yearslong campaign by Nigerian activists against a police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), notorious for kidnapping and murdering people, finally reached a tipping point. After weeks of protests and clashes, Nigeria’s government last year decided to scrap SARS, a rare instance of the country’s administration buckling to public pressure. The state government of Lagos has also set up a panel that’s probing allegations of human rights violations and crimes committed by SARS officers. 

Brazil’s BLM. Brazil’s Black population has long faced police violence and racism — even though about half of Brazilians identify as Black or have African ancestry, according to the 2010 census. But the wave of anger that swept the U.S. after Floyd’s death also hit Brazil, fueling a powerful Black Lives Matter movement there that is refusing to tolerate systemic racism anymore. That movement led to the country’s Supreme Court banning police raids on the country’s favelas during the pandemic unless necessary — though President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has disregarded the ruling.Diplomatic Consequences. But the impact of Floyd’s killing — and other police attacks on Black Americans — isn’t limited to the streets or the courts. It’s also playing out in the hallowed halls of global diplomacy. Long pilloried by the U.S. for their problematic human rights records, China and Russia have returned the favor over the past year, using America’s terrible record on race to question its credibility as a moral force.

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