Say His Name.

Like most of the US, I didn’t know this man existed until his life was tragically cut short, further highlighting the alarming history of police violence against people of color. George Floyd. I love his name and I love his image. I love that it’s everywhere–in art, memes, news cycles, posters, magazines, newspapers, murals, chalk drawings, and cardboard protest signs. I hope in twenty years there are some hip high schoolers wearing t-shirts with his face on it, because the image has become synonymous with racial justice.

Honestly–all I can imagine is how, when this poor man knew he wouldn’t be leaving that interaction alive, he likely (and realistically) thought his death wouldn’t matter. I wish George Floyd could have known his death mattered. Because black lives matter. 

I wish, at the very least maybe George Floyd could’ve known he was the last straw. He was a fuse. I wish he could know his death sparked outrage throughout the world. And that the cop who took his life was charged. And that the cops who allowed it to happen were charged. (And it’s utterly heartbreaking that charges being filed in the first place is huge, because it so rarely happens.) I wish at the very least he could have died knowing he wouldn’t be ‘just another black man’ on the far too long list of unjustly killed black men. And black women. And black trans women. And black children.

I wish he could know that I know his face by name, because all of Minnesota knows it; that in fact, his death started a chain reaction of protest around the globe. (As I write this, currently there have been 3521, including my hometown of Havre, MT. Good job, Havre! I’m really proud of you.) City after city, his name would be chanted by protestors, tagged on walls, plastered on social media–demanding justice. 

We want justice. We want justice for George Floyd. We want systemic change. We’re working to end institutional racism. I wish he’d known that he would become symbolic, a focal point we could all unify around, allowing us to finally begin moving as one. Blatant government corruption, a pandemic, a huge economic recession, and the murder of George Floyd unleashed a perfect storm–and we’ve become a tidal wave.

Because progress for any undermined group is progress for all of us. We can all be better. As a white human, it’s my responsibility to educate myself–and learn the other sides of history and our cultural reality that isn’t taught in schools. (It’s the same thing I had to do with women’s history, while working to unlearn my internalized misogyny.) We all have subconscious bias, and racial issues are inherently uncomfortable and messy. However, it’s time (it’s always been time) to get uncomfortable. As white people, our societal comfort comes at far too high of a cost for people of color. It’s unacceptable, and finally we’re starting to acknowledge this need for change on a national scale.

And I pray to whatever benevolent force that could possibly exist in the universe that he was the breaking point, and we can find the collective will to fight this inevitably long battle. I want real change. I don’t want platitudes, promises, or rhetoric. I want to dismantle white supremacy.

Two hundred Individuals • 22in x 30in • Mixed media (Menstrual blood/India ink/Graphite) • Carly Swenson • 2020

One response to “Say His Name.”

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