‘Is this a moment or a movement?’ I asked Donzaleigh Abernathy – the daughter of Rev. Ralph Abernathy and the God-daughter of Martin Luther King – as protests swept across the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death. George Floyd’s… murder.
‘Both,’ she said. She went on to put the death – and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests – into the context of decades of civil rights struggles. Suddenly, it clicked into place. For all the heat and argument and urgency, it was simply another notch on the long arc of history.
‘George Floyd mattered,’ said Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison, when the jury in the case against Derek Chauvin found him guilty of murder. The 9 minutes he spent with his knee on Floyd’s neck lead to his unlawful killing.
The guilty verdict was a significant moment. But it was just that… a moment. Not an end. Not a conclusion. Justice served, in one sense, but just one battle won in a long and enduring war.
The emotional outpouring of relief from Floyd’s family, supporters and protesters will be played again and again. Those images will become a symbol of this period in history. Whether it’s a period on which American will seize, or let slip by, remains to be seen.
Another striking part of the rhythm of this story was the tone from the top. As the jury retired, President Joe Biden said he was praying for a guilty verdict. When the jury had reached that verdict, he called George Floyd’s family. He comforted them and he promised them that this would be a moment of change. He pulled on all his personal experience of loss and grief and played his role as comforter in chief. It is not hard to imagine how different the tone would have been had his predecessor been in office. It felt like the first significant moment of history since the inauguration for which the voice of division and hostility wasn’t represented through the loudest microphone on earth. It was fitting, but also critical in capturing and shifting the general mood.
Looking closer to home, the verdict comes just a few weeks after the widely discredited report that suggested systemic racism was overplayed in the UK. It was torn apart by the UN and disowned on the international stage. For the first time in my life, on the issue of race and racism, it feels like America has taken a step forward while Britain has been caught with it’s pants down.
There is much that could be said about this week – about George, his family, police brutality, the US legal system and race relations. But I am going to stop. My reflections will end here, and I would love you to give the time you would usually spend with this newsletter to listening to something else – a far more significant and important voice on this subject.
The conversation I had with Donzaleigh Abernathy, deep into the night on my talkRADIO show, has lingered with me. Her grace, her poise, her passion and determination in the face of an exhausting, life-long fight to simply exist. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
Please, take some time to listen. Make a cup of coffee or take a walk with it in your headphones. Click here to listen.
Donzaleigh has been with this movement every day of her life. This weekend, we will speak to her again. We’ll pause to reflect the year since we last spoke, the verdict, what it means, what it doesn’t mean and what comes next. We’ll take her view on another pivotal moment in history.
Before you do that, one more pointer to the weekend, and a debate on vaccinating children.
Israel have asked the nation’s parents to be prepared to have their children come forward for the COVID-19 vaccine, as their roll out covers the whole adult population.
It’s an issue that lands right at the intersection between science, politics and ethics. There are lots of good reasons why we should vaccinate children against COVID-19 – but some legitimate reasons we should ask twice. It is, in many ways, representative of the sort of decisions we’ve had to make over the course of the last twelve months. And it’s a decision the UK will soon be faced with.
We’ll try to cover the science, politics and ethics of that conversation without the usual heat and the division, because when it comes to doing what is best for the nation’s children, we could do without the posturing of adults.
See you in the morning.
Weekend Early Breakfast with Darryl Morris on talkRADIO – Saturday and Sunday – 5am-7am.April 23, 2021 | No Comments