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April 21, 2021

George Floyd Did Not “Sacrifice his Life” for Justice.

If I ruled the world, I’d make it impossible for people to speak without first considering the full impact of their words.

But I don’t rule the world.

Yesterday, following the news that Derek Chauvin was found guilty, on all three counts, of murdering George Floyd, Nancy Pelosi decided to share her reaction publicly (later followed by a clarification) and stated:

“Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom—how heartbreaking was that?—call out for your mom, ‘I can’t breathe.’ But because of you, and because of thousands—millions—of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice.”  

That first line struck me like a blow to the head.

“Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice.”

What the f*ck?!

And what’s worse was I saw similar sentiments across the internet, and across my own newsfeed.

Yes, I understand the need to find meaning in traumatic events. I understand wanting to see this moment as a victory. I understand wanting to put the rose-colored glasses on and feel like all our hard work has created some change. And all of that is true, to a degree.

But news flash: George Floyd was murdered.

I’m pretty sure George Floyd didn’t leave his home last May intending to be a martyr for racial justice.

I’m pretty sure George Floyd thought he’d be going home that day.

I’m pretty sure George Floyd was looking forward to spending time with his girlfriend, his family, his daughter, Gianna.

I’m pretty sure George Floyd was just trying to live his life.

He didn’t choose to die that day. His life was taken from him.

And his life was not the first, and even more heartbreakingly, not the last.

What happened yesterday was not justice. It was the most basic form of accountability that our justice system allows. And frankly, it was far too long overdue.

Justice would be if George Floyd was still alive today. If he could breathe. If he could grieve his mother and raise his daughter and be human and flawed and try again the next day.

Black and brown people who die because of an unjust system; who aren’t given the opportunity to make mistakes without the fear (and reality) of death; who are killed by police officers while selling CDs or sleeping in their beds or getting pulled over for a traffic stop or complying with an officer’s request or walking down the street wearing a hoodie, did not wake up the morning of their death hoping to be remembered as a beacon of justice or a catalyst for social change.

They just wanted to end the day as they started it—alive.

So keep learning, keep fighting for true accountability, keep doing the work to create real change, but please stop celebrating the “sacrifice” of people of color who should still be alive. Please stop thanking them for their “sacrifice.” Please stop acting like their “sacrifice” is some form of justice.

Because they did not ask to die.

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