The Significance of George Floyd
by Tony Hicks
Sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, recent days of protesting and rioting in the streets across the country, remind me of a quote I have grown up hearing: "Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it," (Churchill 1948).
When the infamous Watts riots took place in the summer of 1965, my twin sister and I were twelve years old. As young black children, we had never witnessed a riot before, and what stands out in memory are the images seen, on our black and white television screen, and the fear those images evoked. It was scary to see rioters throwing bricks, rocks, and other solid objects into store front windows; and watching buildings being burned to the ground and people looting local businesses. It was terrifying to see folk assaulting others and the killings at the hands of both protestors and police.
As I look back on that summer, I am grateful that our parents raised us to "not take what is not mine," a lesson that has served me well, thus far.
I do not condone violence under any circumstances; However, growing up in Los Angeles my entire life - except for when I was stationed overseas while in the Navy - I can empathize with protestors and feel their outrage and frustration. In 1992, I witnessed the unrest in the city caused by the beating of Rodney King; a beating that was captured on video tape for the entire world to clearly see. But, even with such compelling, blatant, and obvious evidence of this injustice, the police officers involved were not found guilty, which led to mayhem in our streets, just as it had in 1965.
Now, in 2020; almost 28 years after Rodney King, and in the midst of a World-wide Coronavirus pandemic, people have taken to the streets this past week, in protest of not just George Floyd's killing at the hands of a police officer, but for all unarmed Black people being killed at the hands of law enforcement across the States. Emotions are running high and the people have had enough!
My hope is that this will become a watershed moment where Black America and others will join together and use their anger, disgust, and frustration to promote real change; change that can only be achieved by STAYING FOCUSED on the prize.
After the Watts Riots, The McCone Commission was established to identify the root causes of unrest within communities. Their findings were related to high unemployment rates, poor schools, and related inferior living conditions. Sound familiar?
I have seen my share of protests, riots and violence, and if nothing else, history has taught me that to create change in policy that deprive Blacks and other minorities of their inalienable rights as citizens, the tool and tactic that work best is VOTING! So...the next time there are crowds of young people who are angry about the inequities of lives, let's plan to have folk out there with voter registration applications on clip boards to register them to vote in the November general election! That will prove to be the best way to fight against racism, poverty, poor education, joblessness, homelessness, etc.
I feel your pain, and as an Elder, I am speaking for our ancestors who died fighting the cause during the Civil Rights era, and well before, to ensure that future generations would experience a better life. Let's not lose focus on the most important and powerful tool we have in our arsenal to promote the change we want to see and to make our lives collectively better. VOTE for representative that share our mission, because...We're ALL in this together.