In May of 2020, during an arrest gone awry, George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight by Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis Police Officer with a history of using unnecessary force. This wasn’t the first act of police violence against a Black man in my lifetime. One of my earliest memories from the nightly news is the image of Rodney King beaten alongside the road in Los Angeles, CA. However, Mr. Floyd’s murder moved something in my heart. It was no longer enough for me to watch and speak with my children about White Privilege. It was no longer enough for me to watch movies and think about racism. I knew that I needed to actually do something and be more proactive with my education. I needed to make a difference in my community and walk alongside my BIPOC peers in solidarity and understanding. My family marched in Danbury alongside my hurting peers, we watched ‘Just Mercy’ and talked about it with our children, but most of all, I started reading.
The latest book in my anti-racism educational journey was ‘His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice’ by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa. This book takes the reader through the life, death and aftermath of George Perry Floyd and the systems in place that set his journey towards a tragic ending. As readers learns about the history of Mr. Floyd’s family, including a history of owning land right after Reconstruction, they also learn about the changes of laws and the animosity which white people had towards any Black person who were successful. Even before his birth, the cards were stacked against him.
The authors tell the story of George Floyd and his prowess as a high school athlete. They also discuss how the odds were stacked against Mr. Floyd and his community while he struggled to stay in school, hoping to become a successful athlete, but ultimately falling into the lure of drug dealing and the escape of drug use. Told alongside this story we learn about the statistics of young men living in Houston’s Projects and the difficulties they faced.
The book goes into great details about the specific trials which Black children faced growing up in generational poverty. However, what is important to keep in mind is that both generational poverty and a lack of funding for public schools in these poor districts combined with a lack of educators who truly understand the struggles these students face on a daily basis set this demographic up for failure. More often than not these young people turn to the gangs on the street for a sense of family and support and the lure of drug dealing as a way to make money to care for their families as well as using drugs to help ease the pain of the struggle.
Not only does this book humanize a man whom many attempted to vilify in death, this book puts a face to the racist policies which inevitably led to a lost man’s torture and death.
For anyone who is interested in learning more about George Floyd’s life and the impact made because of his untimely death, read this book. It will help you fully see Floyd in the light of what good he did in his lifetime. More importantly, however, it will show you clearly how little has actually been accomplished as more young Black people are killed by police violence on a regular basis. As you read, I hope that this book helps you see how much more work there is to do in this country to even out the playing field for all.