May 25, 2020: the day that will forever be remembered as the day George Floyd lost his life at the hands of cops.
The day that systematic racism again reared its head at full force in 2020.
In light of this, I talked to 22 people in various age brackets about Floyd's death, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and systematic racism in 2020 and asked them all the following questions:
1. What was your initial reaction to learning about what happened to George Floyd?
2. What are your thoughts on the protests going on currently?
3. What do you have to say to those who don't feel racism is a problem in America?
4. Any additional information you would like to offer?
Let's take a look at what everyone had to say.
1. Francisca from Pennsylvania
1. My initial reaction when I first saw the George Floyd video was, "Here we go again, they killed another black man." However, as I watched the video again and saw the story unfold, I started to feel angry. I was hurt.
It even hurt more because one of my family members was arrested right before COVID-19 started. More than anything, though, I was tired. I was tired of seeing my people be killed and slaughtered for what seems like no reason.
Even if George committed a crime and had to be arrested, there was no reason for him to die. He was apprehended, and he was compliant. So why is he dead?
2. I agree with the protests that are happening. Do I agree with the looting? No. But, I do agree with the protest. A group of people can only go so long tolerating injustice, and the people of color in America have had enough of it.
3. Racism has always been a problem in America. It's just not as blatant as it was before because now it is considered to be morally wrong. So, instead, they hide them in policies that are meant to keep minorities at the bottom.
People can pretend like it is not there, but it does not change the fact that it is real. As MLK Jr. said, "There are two Americas. One America has milk of prosperity and honey of equality. The other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair."
4. People need to realize this is not just about the death of George Floyd. This is about the systematic oppression, police brutality, and injustice that minorities have faced quietly for years. That is what has led us to this point, and we need support.
We do not need to hear that, "MLK protested peacefully or to be peaceful in our protest" as that has not worked. We do not need to be called "animals" or "thugs" (according to POTUS) as that does not help either. What we need is to have people that represent the majority stand with us.
We need you to hear us and see our hurt and pain. We need you to speak up in whatever way you can because, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice EVERYWHERE," as MLK said. And if you do not want to protest or donate or speak up, then just educate yourself on the problem. Knowledge is power. Maybe then you will find a way to stand with us.
2. Jen, age 19, from New Jersey
1. I was disgusted and outraged, but sadly, I cannot say that I was shocked. I feel as though many Americans, including myself, have been desensitized to the murder of black people at the hands of the police.
As the days have gone on, I have found myself increasingly angry about George Floyd's killing and the conditions in our nation that allow police officers to get away with this type of behavior.
2. I think that they are necessary to bring about the radical changes that will need to be made if we are to prevent further instances of police brutality. The excessive force being used by some police against protestors and journalists have further confirmed the necessity of these protests.
It's important to remember that these protests are not just a reaction to George Floyd's murder, they are also fueled by centuries of the systemic oppression of Black people in this country.
3. I would tell them to listen to their Black friends and Black activists to understand the racism they experience in their daily lives, from overt actions to microaggressions.
I would also encourage them to educate themselves on their privilege and how they can be better allies. Reflecting on racism as a systemic and institutional phenomenon in a broader historical context is crucial to understanding how it continues to permeate our society.
4. It is incumbent on all non-Black people to educate themselves in this moment, not just on current events but on the Black experience throughout American history.
This moment in time does not exist in a historical vacuum. Some authors to read include James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The activist I have been following most closely for news and commentary is Brittany Packnett-Cunningham.
3. Cora from South Carolina
1. I was taken back considering it was Memorial Day, so the cops are on double patrol for these holidays. I was mad about the news thinking that this is a pattern starting up from Eric Garner.
2. I am furious about the actions taken during the protests; journalists of all colors are getting attacked for covering the riots, businesses that have no contribution to what happened are getting looted, and there's no real timeframe of when the protests are going to stop.
Small businesses are taking a hit along with big companies, like Target, regarding the looting spree and CNN's headquarters in Atlanta has been vandalized. My question is, "WHAT DID THEY DO TO DESERVE THIS?!?" The main goal of the protests are to gain justice for George Floyd and to help destroy the systematic racism within law enforcement.
Those of us in the black community or who have been affected by any incident like this have every right to be angry and emotional, but violence and destruction of property is not gonna solve anything or give us what we want, putting ourselves in harm's way is not working, and lumping every cop together assuming that they have the same mindset as the racists who abuse their power is part of the problem.
Derek Chauvin has now been fired from the police force, arrested and charged for third-degree murder and manslaughter, been put on suicide watch in his cell, and sent divorce papers by his wife. There's hope for justice in that right there.
3. People who don't feel that racism isn't a problem in America need to open their eyes. It's easy to think that way when you haven't experienced the back end of racism or when your inner circle does not include any voices that can reflect on and relate to what's going on.
Omar Jimenez is a black and Latino CNN correspondent who was arrested during his live broadcast of the Minnesota riot. Josh Campbell is a white CNN correspondent who was covering the same story but did not get arrested. Right now, there's this trend on Instagram of white people posting pictures with their black friend(s) to vindicate that they either are not racist or love black people.
First of all, that is only you trying to help yourself, not the cause. Secondly, you possibly having a token black friend doesn't send the message you think it does, especially if you have not taken the time to see life through their eyes. Most of all, your timing is messed up because a friend is someone you are connected to regularly through mutual love, interest, effort, respect, and support.
So if your picture is not recent and part of a plethora, who are you trying to fool? Until you have a true understanding of what we go through and use your voice to positively stand up for equality, you'll never have the right, or any, words to say.
4. Evaluate how this affects your life, community, and insight. The best way to become inoffensive is to indulge on knowledge outside your own. Don't assume anything about any person because, in the end, you're the one looking like the first half of the word.
4. Carissa, age 20, from Pennsylvania
1. I first learned of what happened to George Floyd by witnessing the video of his death at the hands of a police officer, as it was posted by a person that I follow on social media.
Because I had no background information and it was just the video, I was unsure of what was happening. It strikes me as such a sad video as Floyd is desperately trying to hold on to his life and cry for help.
It is awful to see four men against one. It is so cruel, to me, to see a human slowly kill another as three other officers watch, and as bystanders beg the officers to stop in order to try and save his life.
2. We are going through an incredibly difficult time in America, and to have this event occur at the same time as a global pandemic is conflicting. I want people to be safe from the coronavirus, but I also want government action against the racism and police brutality in this country.
I think I would want to be involved in my local protest that just occurred, however, I don't think working against CDC guidelines is wise. I think if the pandemic were not going on concurrently, we would be in an entirely different situation. It is also horrible to see how certain police units are responding to peaceful protests with violence.
Obviously, some protests have turned violent, which is disheartening and has led to the looting that has caused a lot of damage. However, I don't think this should turn to a negative view of all protesters or a negative view of the cause. Hopefully, the violence and looting subside, and we can have more peaceful protests.
3. It is difficult for me to even understand how people could think that in today's political climate. There are so many news stories that show how racist people can be, as they call the cops on innocent black bystanders because they "look suspicious."
Some may not see this as a problem because white people have privileges that black people do not have, myself included. We can feel safe in a public place without people thinking, saying, or doing awful things. To people who do not feel this is a problem, I say that you should do some research and inform yourself, and I think that it may change your mind.
4. I think it is very important to inform yourself about what is happening and inform yourself on what you can do to help. Whether that's voting, donating, signing petitions, reading a book, or asking people in your community what you can do. It is better to acknowledge your ignorance of a subject and grow from it rather than staying ignorant due to fear.
5. Taylar, age 22, from New York
1. I was absolutely devastated. It sent chills through my body. Unfortunately, I wasn't surprised.
2. I absolutely wholeheartedly support the protests. They were long overdue. I think we're going to end up seeing a civil rights movement 2.0. However, I don't agree with burning places down and stealing. But, those aren't protesters, those are people taking advantage of the protests.
3. Open your eyes. Billions of people are subject to racism every single day. You don't get to decide that there isn't a race problem. You're only saying that because you haven't experienced racism yourself. Well, it's very much alive.
4. Black Lives Matter doesn't mean other lives don't. Black Lives Matter means black people are treated as if their lives are not, and we want to show that they do. All lives don't matter until all lives actually matter. And please, open your eyes and stand with us. We are not the enemy. We just want fair treatment and to be treated like people.
6. Kimm, from South Africa
1. My initial reaction was a mixture of disbelief and disgust. Part of me questioned the people who recorded the ordeal instead of stepping in to help, but then, I found myself answering that question. If those things could do that to George Floyd, then they could do it to the other bystanders too.
2. I salute the people who are putting their lives at risk to make a stand. People only listen when you're loud about the things that bother you.
3. I think all of them should take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We often see what we want to see, instead of seeing what's right in front of us.
7. Janelle, age 21, from New Hampshire
1. I was shocked that this brutality is still happening. We just experienced the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. With COVID-19, I think we have turned our backs on police brutality and gun violence.
2. I think the protests are an appropriate way to rebel against the police brutality on African Americans. Many of the protests are peaceful. They even had one in the Manchester, NH, area where I live.
Their goal is not to hurt anyone, but show how they've been oppressed. White Americans have done the same type of damage during the Super Bowl, World Series, etc.
3. I would say educate yourself, look around your neighborhood, have conversations starting at home. You can't say racism doesn't exist if you've never been oppressed.
White Americans need to accept their privilege in order to address the fact that minority Americans don't receive the same kinds of privileges. Standing together allows us to fight our current system, which systematically oppresses black and brown Americans.
4. I urge all Americans to stand together and stay educated on our current racial issues. Learn the names of those innocent individuals killed, and hear their stories.
Not only should we stay educated, but we need to be sure to vote in our state, local, and national elections. Promoting activism will help spread the word about the atrocities in our country today.
8. Sidney, age 21, from Connecticut
1. When I first learned about what happened to George Floyd, I took a step back and said "not again." I started to get emotional because although I have not been a victim of racism, and probably never will be, I realized that he was someone's child, someone's husband, someone's friend.
They lost someone that mattered to them to homicide. I thought how can a police officer, someone who is hired to protect EVERYONE in their community, harm and kill someone based on the color of their skin. I am disgusted that the African Americans in this country cannot feel safe going to the grocery store just because they're black.
2. In regards to the protests, my feelings and thoughts are conflicted. I understand why they are protesting. I completely think that a peaceful protest is an amazing way to get one's point across. I can't even begin to fathom the pain that the black communities in America are feeling.
However, I do not think fixing violence with violence is the answer. Fixing hurt with hurt will never fix anything, just makes the problem and divide greater. Don't get me wrong, that cop, and any cop like him, deserves to lose their shield and rot in jail, but vandalizing your own community, burning stores down that are owned by minorities and grafting national monuments of those who built our country up and those who risked their lives to protect us in times of need.
3. I think of this a lot, especially when an incident like this occurs. I have never experienced racism personally, so does that mean it doesn't exist? The answer is no. Just because you don't personally deal with racism on a daily basis, doesn't mean that it isn't a problem in America. Obviously there is an issue in America, or riots and protests would not be occurring.
4. Personally, I haven't posted on social media in response to George Floyd's death. I know this is the time to call to action and bring awareness. But, I'm still trying to find the correct words and the right organizations to express my concerns and feelings. I am 100 percent an ally for all African Americans and support them and offer my sincere condolences for the losses that have been brought against you by white Americans.
9. Elisa, age 25
1. I was shocked and very upset seeing the image of the cop with his knee on Floyd's neck. I was in shock reading what happened. It almost felt unreal because usually you hear of cops shooting — which is still terrible — but at least it isn't a slow and agonizing death like he experienced.
2. I don't necessarily think rioting and burning down businesses is something that should be done, but I completely understand why people are rioting. The Black Lives Matter movement tried peaceful protests. They tried kneeling during the national anthem.
And all they got was criticized and called "disrespectful." So if the peaceful protests won't work, what else is there to do? People of color are walking around terrified that any little thing they do will result in their lives being taken, and nobody should have to live like that. They are tired of the police - who are supposed to be protecting everyone - abusing their power and killing them.
I know if I were in that position and someone I love was taken from me like Floyd was, I would want change, and I would want the justice system to throw the murderer — because that's what that cop is — in jail for the rest of his life. I absolutely know that there are good cops out there, but there are way too many bad ones on the street and something needs to change.
I do wish that the rioting will end soon and peaceful protests start, but unfortunately, they (peaceful protests) haven't been working, and real change has to happen.
3. Racism is a HUGE problem in America! Those people who feel otherwise need to wake up! Like I said, people of color walk around terrified of the cops! The cops!
Those are people that are supposed to protect and serve! We should never have to fear walking around a cop. But people do. And then, of course, you have so many stories on the news or on Facebook of people calling the cops on people of color for doing absolutely nothing.
Like the woman who recently called the cops and said, "an African American man is assaulting me" when he wasn't doing anything to that lady. She even blatantly said she knew saying his race would get him into more trouble. If that doesn't prove that racism is prevalent, then I don't know what will.
10. Jennifer, age 57
1. I have to say my first reaction was total shock. I really had no idea what had happened but became curious when I started seeing multiple Facebook posts.
Once I started reading, it was hard wrapping my mind around it. How could someone blatantly ignore his cries and the cries of those around him? Why was no other law enforcement intervening? Even if they had a legitimate reason to arrest him, there was no reason for the restraint they had on him. Put the handcuffs on, and put him in the squad car. It makes no sense.
2. I have always admired Gandhi and Dr. King. Their approach of non-violence to protest was something that took a lot of courage. In light of that, I see no problem in the peaceful protests.
These individuals need an outlet for their anger, rage, and fear. Some wanted a chance to pray, not only for Mr. Floyd's family, but for others who have been thoughtlessly accused and condemned before they even had a chance to protest.
However, I am bothered by the needless acts of vandalism and rioting. How does that honor his memory? How is attacking property and people who were not even there when Mr. Floyd died become a reason to be that violent?
3. Are they blind? I was a child and teenager in the 60s and 70s. I have a friend from elementary school all the way to high school who is African American. When his family moved into our neighborhood, a burning cross was put on his lawn.
My former pastor and his wife were the first biracial couple to marry legally in Oklahoma. The stories they told about the threats and persecution was mind-blowing. Here we are, all these years later, and nothing has really changed. To quote a line from a song in the musical "South Pacific," "You've got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made and people whose skin is a different shade."
The song was written to explain why racism existed in WWII. I think instead we need to be carefully taught to love those around us, even if they are different. We need to be taught to not be afraid. The problem is children are still being taught to hate and fear.
The same people that claim racism does not exist either are those who hate unjustly and are told here is the reason why. Or those who are not affected personally by what is going on around them.
4. I used to work in a daycare. A lot of my students were African American. I loved these kids. I hugged them and played with them.
The thought of them being in this situation scares me and frustrates me. How can we protect them? If nothing changes, what kind of world are they going to grow up in?
Change starts with each one of us. As a Christian, I love others no matter what color their skin is or what religion or nationality they are. I need to be caught doing that instead of caught teaching wrong truths. I need to stand up when I see injustice. Black and White need to endeavor to work together to heal this land. I know some dismiss prayer because they think it is inaction.
They are wrong. That is the first, best step they can take. Remember, though, it does not end there! We need to walk the walk. Be the light in a dark world. Let our African American friends know that we love them and are here for them. I have been blessed to know so many African Americans.
They have enriched my life. I am the better for knowing them. I have never been afraid of them. If only people were willing to open their eyes and see this.
11. Valerie, from New York
1. My initial reaction was one of pure shock. I could not believe a police officer, or anyone, for that matter, would ever rest a knee on the throat of another person.
I was sickened to my stomach as I heard the cries "I can't breathe"... it brought back the memory of Eric Garner. I, again, felt that helpless feeling for every male of color that I know. I thought, not when will it stop, but who will be next?
2. I am in complete agreement with the protests taking place all over the world. While I do not condone violence, I understand what is going on and feel that people are justified. Silent protests did nothing.
Verbal protests did nothing. It is not that people do not have a voice, this democracy has drowned out that voice under the chorale of white supremacy, right vs. left, white privilege, and abused power. If the entire city burned to the ground, so be it.
At some point, we can no longer sit silent and keep waiting for justice, which never comes. What has to be done to get attention? What has to be done to stop police from murdering people, covering up what they have done, hiding behind the wall of blue, and not being held accountable?
3. To those who feel racism is not a problem in American and worldwide, they are a part of the problem! Even an addict will not admit what they are.
Until everyone stands up and says enough is enough and stands with people of color and any administration which seeks to destroy anything not one percent, everyone is going to continue to suffer and have to watch these incidents become more and more frequent.
12. Pam, age 60
1. VERY SAD!
2. Sad about the violence, but when people are oppressed, at some point, they will explode. I was also concerned that this could affect the spread of the virus but TOTALLY support peaceful protests.
3. I know a lot of WHITE people who think there is no problem because they live in white people world, they aren't around black people or live near them, so they don't see how it is.
As a white woman who lived with a black man for 28 years in a predominantly minority section of town, I have seen that the police treat minorities differently, especially black men.
Less segregation is essential we (white people) need to have black friends. We need to live in integrated neighborhoods, and above all, we need HONESTY. This can be fixed, but not until white people are honest and acknowledge the problem. We have made progress (I grew up in the '60s), but we have a long way to go.
13. Sophie, age 23, from California
1. At first, I was just surprised, then shocked, (like oh my god! What!). It made me think back to the other Black Lives Matter movements and injustice that happened in the course of American history. I kept thinking how the U.S. has molded itself into a two-tier system, and it just really bothered me.
2. It's sad that it takes a couple of buildings to be burned down to get a point across. I honestly do not want the protests to destroy the cities, in a way, it's destroying themselves.
However, it's not in my control, the people have fueled their anger and uncorked their stay at home energies out. I hope the violence will end soon and that the country can recover, I believe we can seek our justice in honor and dignity.
3. Oh, PLEASE, brush up on your U.S. history, pick up a black history book and learn about the different black leaders and events that shaped the U.S. to what is it is today (besides Obama and MLK).
If not, then, if anything, please forgo your pride, and keep an open heart and an open mind, not everything is about you.
4. We live in a vast and very expressive country. There is no shame in having your own opinion, but the least a person can do is to gain knowledge and maintain awareness.
14. Caroline, age 21, from New Jersey
1. When I initially learned about George Floyd's killing, I immediately was furious. I could not fathom that we had once again lost a man in a very similar way to six years ago when Eric Garner was killed. It just felt like no progress had been made in these six years.
2. My thoughts on the protests are that as long as everyone abides by safety guidelines and wears a mask, I fully support it. These voices need to be heard, and the protests definitely make a point.
3. Addressing people who believe racism is not an issue, I would say these people are currently blinded by their privilege and have yet to acknowledge and accept it. Living a privileged life means you are not forced to come face to face with the oppression that POC face, and in fact, your privilege is part of that problem until you tackle it head-on.
4. Racism is an issue we need to address at ALL times, not just when a life is lost in such a horrific way. We need to constantly be fighting and pushing for change, and this fight cannot end once this situation passes. It isn't over until it is completely over.
15. Jesse, age 25, California
1. To be honest, I keep seeing posts on social media for a while but never actually looked into the issue initially but it has been on my mind to what was going on in this particular situation. Being someone who was experiencing some of these injustices in my home state to others in the past, I always desire to look into this deeper.
Of course, my initial thoughts were "not this again." Dealing with police officers who sign up to serve our community to protect us and living above the law is unjust. After looking through the facts and checking multiple media platforms here are my thoughts: Many of the police officers are extending their own power, taking advantage of this privilege and trust that we empower them with.
I am upset that our country, in our current state, is making our situation worse by exposing more of the wrongfulness of our systems and cry to change our policies. Racism is a natural occurrence in our world and may never go away, but we treat human life as our own. It is not fair to any ethnic community to go through so much pain and hurt. We are called to bring forth these issues and to fight them as much as possible.
2. A protest is an answer to this response. Anger, frustration, heart-broken and loudness are all emotions that many people are experiencing at the moment.
Violent protest is not the answer. Having conversations, bringing awareness, and putting pressure on our leaders to change the flaws in our country is the solution. It is frustrating seeing people destroy businesses who are hurting in the wake of a global issue, seeing officers and protesters injured, seeing cars burning and infrastructure damaged, walls painted with black lives matter, justice for Floyd, or any other variations of phrases on this issue is hurtful. Violence does not solve violence. Human life matters.
As I heard a pastor of an African American church today say, "We are still dreaming, we need not only to fight injustice but also fight the injustices even within those communities as well." We need to gather as a community to fight this issue but not this way.
That is not what God or any belief system you may follow, if any, wants. We are not animals, we are all 100 percent human, and when has channelling strong emotions to physical actions been good for anyone? I hope we can push for change and help the community and cities who are being deeply affected by the wake of these protests
3. Why do you believe this is not an issue? You can believe what you want to believe, and it is not my right to change your mind, but why do you believe in what you believe? Where are you getting your influence from and what information have you been seeking or been fed by?
I would encourage you to look around you and seek against what you believe to by truth. Only then you can figure what truths/beliefs you want to associate yourself with. I can talk as someone who grew up in segregated communities and how clueless my thoughts were until I moved away and saw so much more. I would only encourage them to do the same.
16. Destiny, 18, from Canada
1. I had seen the video of his death posted on Instagram and, after watching it, I was shocked and upset. I felt sick at what the police officers were doing to him while he shouted that he couldn't breathe multiple times. He was compliant, and they killed him.
I kept thinking about how this could be happening again, to another innocent person. His story was another tragic death at the hands of police brutality and systematic oppression against black people.
2. I think that the protests are long overdue. There have been peaceful protests for years from the #BlackLivesMatter movement regarding this issue, and there have been no changes made. Many videos from the protests, specifically in NYC and Minneapolis, depict police officers shooting rubber bullets and pepper spraying the protestors.
These protests have been met with violence, and the protestors are not backing down. They are being portrayed as "thugs" because they are fighting for their right to feel safe in their own country. I think this is only the beginning for the black community, and they need support.
3. If you don't think racism is a problem in America, then you need to wake up. Silence and ignorance will get us nowhere. Look at the number of videos showing police brutality and unnecessary excessive force.
It's not just a few bad seeds in law enforcement: the system is built so that these officers are harming black citizens and not being properly held accountable. It took mass media uproar to charge George Floyd's killer and hold the cops accountable. It is happening under our noses, and it needs to be acknowledged and prevented.
4. As a white person in North America, my voice and experiences are not as important as those belonging to the black community right now. However, we can all do our part from home to assist the movement.
You can sign petitions, donate, email, call or write to government officials, and vote. If you are focused on improving relations, you can share information, explain the movement to family who might not understand, stand up for, and protect your POC friends. Even if you're not a POC, you can use your voice to help!
17. Teylor, age 20, from New York
1. Shocked. What happened to Floyd is horrific, to say the least. I was disgusted by how easy it was for one human being to treat another human being with such disregard and cruelty, disregard and cruelty that Floyd did not deserve in any way, shape, or form.
I then became overwhelmed and confused about how we got to this place. In this country, at this point in time in which there is a global pandemic killing tens of thousands of people, why is hatred and violence between Americans so strong?
2. I admire those who are speaking out regarding this tragic event (and related events). However, I think that using violence and destruction as a way to protest the unjust taking of a life is problematic.
At these protests, matters have turned so violent that people have gotten seriously injured and even killed. I also learned that protestors vandalized St. Patrick's Cathedral. Although I'm not the person to say what type of protesting is warranted or unwarranted, I can't help but think that continuing to be violent and destructive will only perpetuate the problem even further.
It distracts people from the tragedy of a life taken so senselessly (which should be what we're focusing on), and instead draws attention to actions that truly don't honor the memory of George Floyd. There are so many other ways to express our feelings and opinions that don't involve violence and destruction that may inspire change. I just can't see how lashing out at police officers or spraying graffiti on a place of worship will solve the problem.
3. I would just tell them two simple words: "wake up." I think some Americans feel as if racism isn't a problem in the country because they're uncomfortable with actually confronting the topic and educating themselves.
If they were able to look at the facts, they would be able to see that racism is still very prevalent in this country. Racism has such deep roots in American history, and it appears to be manifesting at a younger and younger age. It seems as if racism is born out of fear and ignorance. I wonder if my great-grandchildren will know the joy of living in a world where everyone is truly viewed as equal.
18. Cat, age 21, from New York
1. My initial reaction to learning about what happened to George Floyd was anger and disgust. I am devastated that so many similar instances have occurred, and horrified that the men and women that are supposed to protect us have instilled fear in so many of us.
I recently started reading "A Mighty Long Way" By Carlotta Walls LaNier and Lisa Frazier Page about the Little Rock Nine, and it really broke my heart to see such similar divides and issues between then and now. As a white person attending college at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY, I am very self-aware of my privilege and try to educate myself on the local communities and support the African American and other minority communities however I can.
2. I think that protesting against cop violence and innocent lives being killed is amazing, and I commend everyone that has been going out there and risking their own lives to stand up for what they believe in. I think it's so powerful that so many people are willing to risk everything to stand for this cause, and I think that we all need to work together to demand change.
If I didn't just have knee surgery, I'd be out there too. So, instead, I've been promoting resources for people to educate themselves and donate to as well as donating myself. I am disgusted that this problem is being denied, and I hope that with the efforts being made, the truth is accepted and change is made.
However, I am saddened to see that some people are taking advantage of this situation and looting stores, especially mom and pop shops that are already struggling so much as it is.
3. I think that anyone that tells themselves and others that racism is not a problem in America is fooling themselves. It's horrible that it's still an issue, but ignoring the issue doesn't solve anything.
Racism is aggressively apparent, and for many people, it is at the forefront of their minds at every waking second. There are still people out there that live in fear of what will happen to them that day because of their skin. That needs to change. We have made great progress, but there is still a very long way to go.
4. I hope that it doesn't take us any more innocent lives to really see change and improvement. If the coronavirus should have taught us anything, it's that we need to work together.
If any event in history should have taught us anything, it's that we need to work together. I hope that for the sake of our future and our children's future, we truly create change here.
19. Robin, age 30, from Texas
1. I think what happened to George Floyd was tragic and avoidable. If people stopped judging one another by how we look and started working together we could make our society and the world we live in a much better place.
2. I understand that people are angry, scared, and confused. I get that people want answers and justice for the wrongs they see being committed in this world.
I think getting angry and standing up for your beliefs is a great thing. However, I do not agree with people going out looting and destroying the cities. To those who are doing this: you are only hurting yourself and the place you call home.
3. Racism is as real as any other social issue in America. One person has no business judging another for the color of their skin. I will not judge others for their race or nationality. I judge people on their actions and what they do.
4. Whatever happened to "United We Stand, Divided We Fall" as a representation of America? We are falling right now. We are failing. And anyone who says we are not is not paying attention. I feel like we, as people, need to band together before it is too late.
20. Radhi, age 27, from New York
1. My initial reaction to George Floyd's passing was to demand immediate justice. I honestly did not imagine the collective's reaction being the same if not, even more, outraged nationwide. To set off a spark like that is beyond a miracle. I'm just so happy that everyone's eyes are open, and their voices are charged.
2. The protests that are going on currently are relatively peaceful protests that are provoked by the police into a form of violence from the state of mere defense.
Everyone is demanding law enforcement to protect our people during these protests, and I am asking for the same. Those who seek to do no harm should not be hurt or put in harm's way by barricading the public. I urge everyone to stay safe while protesting and to look out for one another.
3. Racism is a problem not only in America but all over the world. This is being seen worldwide even by those who do not wish to see the truth. There are massive protests in Toronto, London, Paris, and probably other major cities as well. Everyone is learning that there is only one, the human race.
4. "We are the people" never forget.
21. Matt, age 24, from Washington D.C.
1. Unfortunately, my first reaction was along the lines of, "here we go again." I feel for George's family and loved ones, and I can't fathom the loss they're experiencing, as well as other black families that have had to live with similar unfortunate realities. It's a shame we've gotten to the point of numbness, but we have to fight that feeling and continue fighting for what's right.
2. I am a huge supporter of the protests going on around the country. In fact, I attended the protest in Washington DC last night at Lafayette Park, just north of the White House. With my own eyes, I saw a peaceful march around the city and a peaceful protest for upwards of four-plus hours.
In fact, about half of the cops lined up on the White House side of the barricade even knelt down in solidarity with the protestors at one point. Incredibly moving moment. But, once pepper spray and gas was thrown into the crowd, a fire broke out when someone (a white man looking to be in his late 20s or early 30s) lit a street sign on fire.
That caused others to throw things into the fire, and it continued to grow on the north end of the park. I won't pretend to understand the decades and generations of oppression that people of color in this country have experienced, so I can definitely understand why anger boils over. However, I do think that looting & violence does more harm than good and takes away from the overall message, which is why we see people only focusing on the violence rather than the original message and underlying issues.
3. For those that don't feel racism is a problem in America, I would encourage them to talk to their minority friends. This country was built on the backs of slaves, and while we've taken strides since then, the entire system is set up to oppress minorities. White privilege is not the same as racism.
You can recognize and acknowledge that you have white privilege without being racist, in fact, just the opposite. White privilege does not mean your life is easy. You may still have your own issues in your life. It just means that the color of your skin is not one of the things making your life more difficult, as is the case with minorities.
4. I support and applaud law enforcement and those that risk their lives every day to protect their community. However, to fail to recognize that there is a systemic issue is either willful ignorance or inherent racism.
And for those that say that it's "just a few bad apples" that aren't representative of the entire police force, then why are a "few bad apples" that are causing the riots representative of the entire protests, which have been almost entirely peaceful.
22. Marina, age 20, from Connecticut
1. Learning what happened to George Floyd was absolutely devastating. The incident was clearly racially charged, and I was disappointed to see that something so vile could happen in 2020. It made me think that we haven't made as much progress against racism as I initially thought.
2. Obviously, the protests aren't ideal, but I think they're necessary at this point. Historically, riots are important for sending a message when nothing else works.
We cannot be angry about violent protests when peaceful protests were ignored. LGBTQ people have rights today is because of the Stonewall riots, and human rights are clearly at stake here, so hopefully, the protests will convey this important message.
3. Many people are hesitant to get involved because they think this is a political issue, but it isn't about politics at all – it's about our moral responsibility to stand up for the lives of POC.
4. We need to stand together if we want to make a difference. Unity is so important in times like these.
Answers have been edited for grammar and style and reflect only the opinion of the respondents, not the interviewer or Odyssey.
At the time the interviews were conducted, the three assisting officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao, were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, and Derek Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.