Remember nearly three years ago, when many of us were led to believe that the sight of George Floyd crying for his mother while being suffocated to death had moved masses of white people to introspection and change? In retrospect, that change seems to have dissolved as soon as they changed the TV channel.
In fact, polling showed that by early September 2020, many Americans’ — particularly, white Americans’ — support for the Black Lives Matter movement had receded just three months after Floyd’s murder, with a majority opposed to the movement for racial justice.
I couldn’t help but think of that over the weekend, as I contrasted the widespread public outrage over Floyd’s death and the relatively muted response to the death of Keenan Anderson, who died after a Los Angeles police officer used a Taser on him repeatedly after a car crash.
What are we to make of this difference?
Has the public gotten busier since then? Crueler? More fickle? More tolerant of violence? More futile in our response to it? Where are the black Instagram squares, the corporate news releases claiming to stand for racial justice, the social media posts about white folks listening and learning about their privilege? Did it truly take a global pandemic to force much of the country to face the reality of disparate treatment by police? Have people — seeming allies, even — buried their heads in the sand to escape that reality?
That appears to be the case.
Things feel different this time around. And not for the better. Keenan Anderson’s death hasn’t evoked the response Floyd’s did, even after Anderson referred to Floyd during his encounter with police.
“They’re trying to George Floyd me!” Anderson yelled.
It was as if he was trying to instill empathy in the people who would ultimately watch this gruesome spectacle. As if to say: “See me with the same humanity you once saw George.”
The muted public response suggests, to me, that a lot of people don’t intend to answer his call.