One year ago today, George Floyd was murdered, adding unbearable grief to the anguish so many were already feeling as the pandemic settled in.
Later last year, in October, I heard a young man in a group of protesters say, with genuine disbelief and confusion, that he just couldn’t understand it: nearly six months had passed, and still this mess was not resolved. Protesters were still in the streets. Racism had not been addressed. Violence, hatred, and fear were still prevalent.
Hearing him say that, I had two conflicting feelings.
First, I was surprised that he was surprised. Racism and hatred born of the enslavement of human beings has been part of American history and culture since the first ship landed here carrying enslaved people more than 400 years ago; it was part of ancient civilizations (including some in Africa) more than 1500 years before that. Six months, I thought, even with so many new voices in the fight, is nowhere near long enough to expect to see change.
And then I was tempted to agree with him. Six months is far too long to expect people to go on accepting the unacceptable. Why can’t we expect to see immediate improvement? How much longer do I have to keep accepting a status quo that should simply not be, the pernicious remnants of something that should never have happened?
The anniversary of Mr. Floyd’s killing has me reflecting again. Idealism is at the core of the work we do together, with and for girls, and it is at the core of the outrage and optimism that inspire us to try to make the world more equitable. Idealism is what makes us think six months is too long to wait for a kinder world, and it’s what helps us see our progress and believe deeply in the goodness of humankind—six months later, or a year later, or 400 years later.
At the same time, we also need determination and persistence—recognizing that racism, sexism, inequity, and all forms of oppression have deep, deep roots, and that we are in this fight, with and for girls, for as long as it takes. In the words of Ella Baker, set to music by Bernice Johnson Reagon, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest.”