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Robert Samuels & Toluse Olorunnipa, Co-Authors, ‘His Name Is George Floyd’

Robert Samuels & Toluse Olorunnipa join Washington Post Live (Video: The Washington Post)
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The video recording of George Floyd’s death sparked worldwide protests against police brutality and calls for reform.Co-authors and Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa join opinions columnist Michele Norris for a conversation about how systemic racism shaped Floyd’s life and legacy as explored in their new book, “His Name Is George Floyd.”

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“I think what happened when George Floyd died was it caused a lot of external conversations. A lot of people asked, ‘What can we do? What have we done about systemic racism? Where are our faults?’ And lost in that was the humanity of George Floyd himself. And so, when we started this project, we knew that we wanted to show the world that George Floyd was loved, that he was ambitious, that he was persistent. And we hoped that by showing who George Floyd was, we could help see who we are as a society and start thinking about ways to create a better tomorrow.”- Robert Samuels (Video: Washington Post Live)
“He came into the world as 'Perry,' as someone who was known as playful. A child who was always with his mother--we obviously saw that at the last moments of his life where he called out for his mother. But as a child, when he was Perry, he was always with his mother kind of always in her lap, always under her. And we revealed that as he grew up and got older, he still had that sensitive, sort of motherly nature about him. He wanted to provide for his other siblings, his younger siblings, his nieces and nephews. And he sort of faced some of those pressures to be the father of the house when his father was not around. And that led him into a number of different decisions that he made that we get into in the book. But Perry was someone who was very close to his family. Family was incredibly important to him and he came from a big, proud family and he always wanted to make something for his family. And chasing those dreams, that ambition led him to a number of pathways and led to a number of different doors being closed in his face over the course of his life.” Toluse Olorunnipa (Video: Washington Post Live)
"The stress of being Black in America, dealing with it, has a physical on you--it can make you sick. And it’s one of the reasons why Black people are more likely to die from a host of diseases. Now for a person like George Floyd, that becomes even more of the case because he was growing up with this attitude that you have to work twice as hard to get as far as a white person in this world. The scientific term for it, they call that 'John Henry-ism' and George Floyd who was a big guy who looked like John Henry, he followed in that vein. He felt he had to work really hard to overcome his challenges. He knew that society wasn’t giving him much grace when it came to his mistakes and that took a toll on him. By the time George Floyd is 46 years old, he has bad knees, a bad back, some of the autopsies say he has an enlarged heart, had claustrophobia, high blood pressure. All of these things are markers, particularly markers of stress hormones and usually more represented in African Americans than in their counterparts.”- Robert Samuels (Video: Washington Post Live)
“People did cry and there was this outcry nationally and internationally after Floyd’s death and I don’t want to downplay the importance of that. We had an election that happened a few months later, multiple changes at the local level, different police departments were overhauled, things happened in the corporate and cultural world. And systemic racism became a word and a theme that people talked about on a more regular basis. And that does mean something, there is change that is taking place on a minor level on a number of different fronts. But when it comes to the kind of broad-sweeping legislative change that people thought might happen after George Floyd died, the kind of civil rights bill that might happen to change and reform policing or change and reform systemic racism on a broader level, we saw that just get swallowed by our political system. Which tends to grind complex and nuanced issues to a halt. And that’s what happened with police reform, that’s what happened with a number of different measures on a national level…We hope that people from all different political stripes will read this book and reexamine some of the views that we have about where this country is and what it’s like for someone like George Floyd.”- Toluse Olorunnipa (Video: Washington Post Live)

Robert Samuels

National Political Enterprise Reporter

Co-Author, “His Name Is George Floyd”

Toluse Olorunnipa

Political Enterprise & Investigations Reporter, The Washington Post

Co-Author, “His Name Is George Floyd”