George Floyd and Breonna Taylor: Why These Particular Deaths Deserve Our Attention

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I woke up to reports of violence in multiple cities around the country. In the wake of George Floyd’s death earlier this week and the ongoing concerns over Breonna Taylor’s death in March, racial violence, prejudice, and injustice is in the news again. 

George Floyd and Breonna Taylor

These deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are particular tragedies. They are also tragedies in a long history of fear, intimidation, hatred, and violence against African Americans. That violence has been perpetrated not only by individual white people against individual black people but also by people who represent the state. These particular tragedies call forth a broader, deeper, more persistent and insidious offense. The very institutions intended to protect the public from violence and injustice instead become representatives of fear. 

Every human being who dies deserves to be honored, celebrated, and mourned by those who loved them. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor deserve the attention of those who did not love them, who did not know them, who live far away and feel far removed from their particular situations. 

Paying Attention

I wrote earlier this week about the need for white people to engage with the pain and suffering black Americans experience in the face of the persistence of these incidents. That engagement begins with paying attention. Learning about George Floyd’s life as well as his death. Mourning the fact that his life was cut short with brutal disregard for his full humanity. Crying out, even with a sense of helplessness, crying out for justice, for mercy, for healing.

It is tempting to turn away, but our responsibility to our nation is to face the painful and tragic reality of these painful losses and engage with that suffering with love.

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