Remembering and honoring George Floyd
Our Chief Diversity and Social Impact Officer remembers George Floyd on the anniversary of the tragedy.
George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020. Two years ago today. At the time, it felt like the whole world had come to a standstill. The news catalyzed movements—and conversations—that needed to be had for decades. But 24 months later, I’m worried that his memory is already starting to fade.
Part of the reason why George Floyd’s murder made such a profound impact was because it was captured on video and was widely circulated. It’s impossible to see something like that without having a visceral reaction. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the entire video until over a full year had passed, and even then, it was almost too much for me.
The emotional response was immediate and huge. The video was simply unignorable and shocking; it even seemed to shift people’s overall perspective of racism in America. The research Momentive did following the murder found that 86% of the public believed that white people have advantages that Black people don’t—even though the study we’d done for Black Women’s Equal Pay Day a few months earlier found that 41% didn’t think Black women faced more challenges than whites. It felt like this exceptional, tragic event was changing public attitudes and making people more aware of inequity than they had been even just a few months before.
George Floyd’s murder wasn’t the only tragedy of its kind. He was only one of 241 Black people shot fatally by police in 2020 alone. His death was simply the most visible part of a long-running, often ignored trend. Racially-motivated violence repeats itself in tragedy after tragedy—the most recent being the shooting rampage of a white supremacist in Buffalo that targeted Black people. People of color are assaulted while doing everyday things like grocery shopping or going to church. Every time, it hurts afresh—and yet nothing changes. And worse, it sometimes feels like we’re getting used to it.
In the midst of a pandemic, various economic swings, political tension, and just daily life, it can be easy to let the issues his death brought to the surface slip into the background. Without an explicit video charging our emotions, we can get complacent. We can’t let that happen.
The murder brought about a new focus on both social inequities and, more importantly, structural inequities that people of color—and more specificially Black people—face across the United States. Discriminatory practices like redlining loans, voter suppression targeting people of color, and racial bias in hiring and employment all became objects of well-deserved scrutiny. It’s our job now to keep talking about them, just as often and as urgently as we did the first time we saw that terrible video. We need to keep saying his name, and keep improving the institutions that have failed him and other people of color. We need to continue to push on the systems and demand change.
I know that people haven’t forgotten about inequity or lost their willingness to fight for it. I’m inspired by outspoken advocates almost every day. The more recent news cycle has focused more on conversations about women’s rights (sparked by the controversial supreme court leak indicating the court intends to overturn Roe V. Wade), transgender rights, and other LGBTQIA+ issues. These topics all intersect. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
The best way to honor George Floyd is to work to dismantle oppression that is built into our society and systems until no one, of any group, is being unfairly marginalized. We can do this by donating time or money to organizations that are working for social change. (We have several that you can check out on SurveyMonkey Contribute.) We can do this by voting and empowering others to vote. We can do this by pressuring our companies to get involved, improve hiring practices, and hire vendors that advance diversity.
At Momentive, we’re continuing our journey to be actively anti-racist. We do this internally with diversity hiring programs, employee resource groups (ERGs), mental health initiatives for communities of color, and manager learning experiences for creating an inclusive environment based on DEI principles. And we do it externally with financial support, social advocacy, and by deliberately working with vendors that share our values. It’s a major effort, a continuous effort—and I know how important it is that we not only keep it up, but also keep aiming to improve.
Sometimes I personally feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that we have left to do, and disheartened that we may not see the changes that I’d like to see in my lifetime. But then I was reminded when reading Dr. Shawn Ginwright’s book The Four Pivots that Europe’s most impressive cathedrals took hundreds of years to build by hand, and the people who laid the foundations never got to enjoy the finished project. But they still helped create something that is still inspiring people centuries later. I hope to do the same—and I know that George Floyd already has.