It has been one year since the murder of George Floyd. One year since everyone was forced to witness what happens when white supremacy goes unchecked. One year since the world woke up to the realities that Black people have been facing for centuries. It’s been one year of protests, 365 days of self-reflection, and 525,600 minutes of demand for change.
For many it has been an awakening that frankly took too long. For others it has been the constant reminder of what we already knew this world to be. And for some, it’s just been another year.
So where are we as a nation now? Are we any better today than we were a year ago? Are we heading in the direction of real change?
It’s true that much has changed for the better. The summer of 2020 brought protests and racial uprising across the world. Over the course of the last year we have seen calls for police reform and defunding. We’ve seen more and more people actively working to combat police brutality and systemic racism. We elected a new administration, including the first Black and South Asian woman as vice president. Many people were exposed for their casual racism, Lea Michele being my personal favorite. Google it.
Being anti-racist has become what is expected. No longer is it acceptable to be neutral or passively not racist, and honestly it never was. We even got a murder conviction of a police officer for killing Floyd.
All of this is truly unprecedented and not to be minimized. So, I’m not going to counter by saying all of that happened, but. We live in a world where multiple things can be true at the same time. So instead I will say yes, and.
Yes, all of that happened and Breonna Taylor still didn’t get justice and many unarmed Black people were still killed by police. Yes, all of that happened and Black trans women were still murdered at alarming rates. Yes, all of that happened and domestic terrorist white supremacists led an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. All while COVID-19 still raged on, disproportionately harming Black and Brown communities due to health disparities and leading to a rise in Asian hate crimes. Yes, all these things and so many others can be true at the same time. And because that is our reality, we must find joy wherever we can. It’s the reason I take any moment possible to celebrate Blackness no matter how small. It is the reason we have Pride and I celebrate queerness in all its forms. We must celebrate all that we are any chance we get. It is how we counter the bullshit that surrounds us every day.
Now I don’t say all of this to bring anybody down. I say it to keep us focused on the true goal. When George Floyd’s murderer was convicted, I saw so many people talking about getting justice. While I understand the sentiment and understand what it represents, I must remind everyone that what we got was accountability not justice. Justice is when Black people stop being brutalized and killed by the police. Justice is when children are not being separated from their parents at borders. Justice is when all women have equity; justice is when transgender people can reach a life expectancy equal to the general population. In short, justice should not include pain and trauma. Justice is when everyone can live their best lives free of fear of violence and oppression. That is the true goal.
So again, we must ask ourselves a year later where are we as a nation? Where should we be? And how do I contribute to getting us there? The road to justice will not be paved in trauma, it must be covered in triumph and cemented in joy. The legacy of George Floyd is joy. Keep finding it.
Ashley Innes is a writer, activist, and regular contributor to The Advocate and its sister publication, Plus. Follow her on Twitter @Ash_Innes.