8 minutes, 46 seconds: Reflecting on the death of George Floyd a year later

By Dr. William Welburn, vice president for inclusive excellence

May 25 marks the first anniversary of the death of George Floyd. His death has become a symbol for Black, Latinx and Indigenous people who have lost their lives, become severely injured or otherwise traumatized in encounters with individuals within our nation’s law enforcement community. Over the past year, as we have all struggled to keep going amid a global pandemic, the names of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbry, Jacob Blake and Mario Gonzalez Arenales are among the many whose names and stories have transcended cultural lines in a resolution to seek racial justice, promote human dignity and confront trauma in Black, brown and Indigenous communities.

Dr. David Williams, a Harvard professor and 2017 Ralph Metcalfe chair at Marquette University, recently said in an interview, “There’s a body of evidence emerging that suggests these incidents are having a negative impact not just on [victims’] family members, but there’s a broader community grieving; there’s a broader ‘threat’ to the community; there’s a broader increase in personal vulnerability that’s having mental health consequences… We are still in the beginning of understanding of what is happening.”

This Tuesday, we have an opportunity to sustain our continued commitment generated in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the knee of convicted officer Derek Chauvin. Whether alone or in the company of others, we can all take a pause for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to reflect on what a just society looks like, and the end of the criminalization of communities of people who continue to work through trauma historically rooted and experienced in our times. It is also a moment for discernment, asking ourselves what justice and peace might actually look like in our broken world.