George Floyd was stopped by Minneapolis police for allegedly paying for food with a counterfeit $20 on Memorial Day. Because of cellphone video, the entire world watched the unarmed black man die as a white police officer pressed his knee down on Floyd’s next for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd, whose death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, was buried back in his hometown of Houston on Tuesday.
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, told me that the House Judiciary Committee will take a vote on the police reform legislation next week. “One amendment that will be offered will call for renaming the bill to 'The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,’” Bass told me Thursday. “And that was a specific request that was made by the Floyd family to Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi.”
Bass said the request was delivered personally to Pelosi by Philonise Floyd, younger brother of George, “a few minutes before” he delivered his powerful plea for police reform before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. But the ask, said Bass, who was standing next to Philonise Floyd during the encounter, was the result of a question raised by Gianna Floyd, George’s 6-year-old daughter. The speaker’s office confirmed that Philonise Floyd told Pelosi that Gianna wondered how people would remember her father if his name weren’t on the bill.
The idea that Gianna’s father would not be remembered is hard to imagine. There have been demonstrations against police brutality and for racial justice across the United States and around the world ever since he was killed on May 25. And Floyd’s gruesome death has unleashed a conversation on race in the United States that feels different than all the others we’ve had over the years. Bass agrees.
“It has served as a catalyst for an entirely new movement. Now, the movement against this type of police violence has always been there, but it has now sprung into a multiracial movement,” explained Bass. “In some cases, you have to look hard to see the black people because they’re overwhelmingly white, and I think that’s incredibly positive.” Another positive she and I discussed was what appears to be a change in how all the acts of racism we’ve been talking about for generations are being heard. “There seems to be an opening in the United States for people to begin to hear something they’ve been unable to hear before,” shared Bass.
“One of the things that has always mystified me about these situations is how my experience is so drastically different from someone else’s. But the person who hasn’t experienced this does not have the ability to say, ‘This has never been my experience. Let me hear about yours. Let me learn about yours,’ ” Bass explained. “What typically happens, what has happened in the past is ‘[someone says], ‘I’ve never experienced that so what you said actually never happened.’ … [or] it’s that, ‘It didn’t happen to me so it couldn’t have happened to you either. It must have been a misunderstanding.’”
Gianna is best known for what she said in a June 2 video on the Instagram feed of retired basketball player Stephen Jackson, a friend of her late father’s. “Daddy changed the world!” Gianna exclaims with arms outstretched as she sits on Jackson’s shoulders. And yet, she worried this week that her father would be forgotten as Congress moved to ensure he didn’t die in vain.
I asked Bass what she would say to Gianna about the little girl’s fear if she met her one day. The congresswoman revealed that she had already delivered a message to Gianna through her Uncle Philonise. Bass said, “What I told him is, ‘You tell her that her daddy will never be forgotten.’”
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