Friday, June 5, 2020


This is not a political statement. This is a eulogy. For George Floyd, in whose honor the NAACP declared yesterday, June 4, the day of his funeral, a National Day of Mourning. For the many victims of racial violence across this country. For innocence. For justice.

In 2010, The Equal Justice Initiative, an organization founded by lawyer Bryan Stevenson of Just Mercy fame and dedicated to balancing the scales of justice for marginalized people, began a project to document and memorialize acts of racial terror such as lynching. The result was a detailed research study on the subject  and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The Memorial, opened in 2018, is a dramatic representation of these terrorist acts, in the form of 800 hanging metal slabs, one for each county of the U.S. in which the incidents occurred in the years between 1877 and 1950. The slabs are inscribed with the names of the victims of the racial violence that was perpetrated, often with official sanction and almost exclusively without legal consequence for the perpetrators.

 National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama
Look at this memorial. Really look at it. Take your time. 

Now look at this list of names and ask yourself just how much progress we have really made toward racial justice in this country. These are black American victims of police or vigilante racial violence in more recent memory. They represent all ages and sexes; they come from all backgrounds and neighborhoods; their deaths are from as recent as this week and as long ago as the 70s. And, without doubt, they are only representative of a much bigger total:
David McAtee   George Floyd    Ahmaud Arbery    Bothem Sean    Atatiana Jefferson    Breonna Taylor   Jonathan Ferrell   Renisha McBride   Stephon Clark   Jordan Edwards  Jordan Davis   Alton Sterling   Aiyana Jones   Michael Brown  Tamir Rice  The Charleston 9  Trayvon Martin   Sean Bell   Oscar Grant   Sandra Bland    Philando Castile   Corey Jones  John Crawford   Terrence Crutcher   Keith Scott   Clifford Glover   Claude Reese  
Randy Evans  Yvonne Smallwood   Amadou Diallo   Eric Garner  Freddie Gray

At 3:45 p.m. yesterday afternoon, along with many others, I held silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd until Floyd was dead, while three of his duly-sworn fellow officers of the law looked on and did nothing. Eight minutes and 46 seconds is an interminable period of time, plenty of time to stop and consider one's actions. All the time I was holding silence my consideration was that Floyd's death was not an isolated incident perpetrated by rogue officers, but part of a pattern repeated far too often. 

And I recognized that such a death requires a eulogy. For innocence. For justice. And, I fear, for our nation itself.


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