Blackness as Martyrship

Photo by Life Matters on

On Tuesday April 20th, Dereck Chauvin was convicted on all charges for the murder of George Floyd. Celebration rung out all across the community as justice felt like it had been served. Some people across twitter felt conflicted over the outpour of celebration because a murderer was convicted of….well, murder; we shouldn’t celebrate a broken system for finally getting it right. I understand the sentiment but disagree in this case. We have suffered and cried because of the many times this system failed us by not only murdering us but consequently getting away with it. It is not the system we are celebrating; it is the justice.

After the conviction of Chauvin, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, made an embarrassingly sickening statement. In what she deemed profound, she 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 to your mom, ‘I can’t breathe.’ But because of you, thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice. And now we have to make sure justice prevails in the sentencing. But, you know, that’s its own procedure.” 

The ignorance and disrespect from such a prominent figure in society is bewildering, though not entirely surprising. To have the audacity to thank a man who begged for his life, to suggest he sacrificed it or even had a choice to do so, is succumbing to the ignorance immersed in her brain as privilege allows her to brush past the reality of the world she lives in. To say his death sparked national change is one thing, but to thank him for his death is another. George Floyd was murdered. By a system meant to “protect” him. He is not a martyr. He did not sacrifice anything. His life was stolen from him. Black people are not your martyrs, and we never will be. We are tired of being symbols of the justice that we should already have. Especially when it means having our lives taken too soon. It’s exhausting. The idea of martyr-ship amongst black people in America is nothing new. We thank people like Martin Luther King for giving his life and have accepted the audacity of those who killed him to celebrate his legacy every year. I celebrate MLK’s legacy and impact, but I do not thank him for giving his life for justice. His life was not given, it was taken.  

I do not believe anyone’s name should be synonymous with justice, especially not anyone who’s main association with justice has to do with the constant denial of it. Having this conversation is tiring. I am so tired, and I feel I have become desensitized to the murders and deaths around me. I am tired of talking about them, tired of being triggered. It is okay for black people to be tired. Traumatized. And I know I am not the only one. George Floyd was a person, not a symbol. Ma’Khia Bryant was a person. Breonna Taylor was a person. The names go on for too long.

Pelosi’s statement did not only paint George Floyd as a symbol of justice, it painted the conviction of murderer Derek Chauvin as a symbol of the “return” of peace and the status quo. It was the excuse we needed to get back to the way we were. To the way of covered up murders and absence of convictions. Back to the way when there was a chance to control the fight for justice on their terms. When it wasn’t as much of a clear national “threat.” When ignorance tricked people into thinking justice was possible without a complete reset. It was a statement that suggested our anger is no longer justified. We got what we wanted. Even if Pelosi did not mean it this way, that is inevitably how it will be perceived by white nationalists, racists, or Trump supporters—which are all the same group of people anyway. To use her massive platform and utter a statement of such pure stupidity is tone-deaf and enabling. Unfortunately, she is not even the worst of the bunch.

Although Pelosi never retracted her statement or even apologized for that matter, her team tweeted what was supposed to serve as a revision of her original statement… “George Floyd should be alive today,” she tweeted. “His family’s calls for justice for his murder were heard around the world. He did not die in vain. We must make sure other families don’t suffer the same racism, violence & pain, and we must enact the George Floyd #JusticeInPolicing Act.” I will not go into what the Act entails in this post, but for more information visit here.

One thought on “Blackness as Martyrship

  1. I agree 100% Derek is one of many, yes, I’m happy he was found guilty. But many more need to be found guilty. Justice is due how about overdue for the many black men and women and children who were murdered because “living while black” GREAT BLOG!

    Liked by 1 person

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