Sat, Aug 8, 2020

Covid had created the perfect conditions, but George Perry Floyd was the match that lit the fire.

I rubbed my eyes, stumbling into the living room. The sun was already shining brightly through the open windows and I winced in pain from the light, fishing blindly for the TV remote. My days were losing their rhythm. Grounded by Covid there seemed to be little need for the tracking of time. The kids were out of school indefinitely and most of Washington state was still in Phase 2 of the quarantine, which meant bars, restaurants and most gathering places were still shut down to the public.

I clicked on CNN for my morning dose of trauma. I had written in my last piece that the cabin fever was turning into something more insidious and it seemed I was not alone. Gone were the Covid stats and streaming medical updates that had dominated the news networks for the last several months. A new tragedy had caught the world’s eye…

Eleven minutes of inhumanity. Eleven minutes of shame and persecution had awakened an entire nation to the ugly truth of racism in America. Covid had created the perfect conditions, but George Perry Floyd was the match that lit the fire.

Tens of thousands of protestors worldwide hit the streets – the masks they wore to protect them from the disease now protecting their anonymity as they gave voice to the Floyd family’s injustice – some peacefully, some through violent opposition.

Confederate monuments across the nation were destroyed, buildings burned to the ground as citizens abandoned the confinement of their homes to stand arm in arm.

Several square blocks of Seattle, including a police precinct, had been completely taken over and was now occupied by protestors who had successfully managed to keep the police out of what was dubbed the ‘Free Zone’ – later modified to C.H.O.P. or Capital Hill Occupied Protest.

Nothing had been particularly unique about those 11 minutes. What was unique was how well they were documented. Militarized policing had been having a disproportionate effect on minority populations since the Reagan era drug wars, but for many white Americans the George Floyd video was a startling introduction into what was for many others a sad fact of life.

As often happens in times of tragedy, our home streets of Washington seemed to be pervaded by a new sense of unity. Blacks and whites were finding new commonality, united in their belief that people deserve to be treated fairly, humanely and above all, equally.

While what was going on was clearly a race issue, it was also displaying the systemic and large scale inequality in this country. Black, white, yellow or brown, if you were born poor in America, statistically speaking, you would die poor, too. It’s was hard to have equality in a system where 1% of the people owned all the resources.

There was no clear solution, but one thing was evident: Americans were waking up. A new generation would be in charge soon and change was in the wind…