HOUSTON – Protests nationwide in response to the death of George Floyd have rekindled conversation and debate about the role marches play in encouraging change.
Rebellion in the United States is nothing new and helped to spark the movement that became the American Revolution.
Moreover, images of protest against racial injustices helped shape the public’s understanding of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Similar responses to Floyd’s death provide a link to marches of the past. They also speak to stark differences, say, historians, between both eras.
“What we’re seeing right now, it’s extenuating circumstances. It’s something beyond the pale, where millions of Americans and people from beyond our borders were able to watch a black man, who was unarmed, be murdered in plain view,” said Dr. Karen Kossie-Chernyshev, a history professor at Texas Southern University.
Video shows Floyd, 46, being pinned under the knees of white police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sparked international outrage over how officers handled Floyd as he pleaded that he could not breathe.
“Anytime you have the loss of life age there’s reaction to the loss of life in a very brutal and heinous way, what we should expect is for people to stop and say something is really wrong here,” said Dr. Kossie-Chernyshev, adding the response is also an overarching rebuke of police misconduct involving interactions with black men.
“We have to really think about how police officers are trained and we have to also think about making sure that not allowing in the various forces activities to go on,” she said.
Dr. Kossie-Chernyshev said inroads were made following protests in the 1960s, including access to education, but “at the same time, a lot of the micro-aggressions that African-Americans have always faced, they’re still there,” she said.