June 1, 2020

Bearing witness to the death of George Floyd

The nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves offers resources to help us understand the historical and contemporary political contexts in which George Floyd's tragic death is embedded.

Mourners created a memorial and mural outside the Minneapolis shop where George Floyd was killed after police officers pinned his body to the ground on May 25. Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

On May 25, 2020, a black Minnesota man, George Floyd, was killed after being pinned to the ground by three police officers. As of May 29, one of the officers, who is white, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the death.

Floyd, like so many black people who have come before him, was stopped by the police while driving and would not make it home that night.

Given the innate limitations of virtual instruction, we are currently examining what it would mean to create space for brave and supportive processing of events like this one in virtual classrooms. But even as we thoughtfully expand the tools we offer to meet this moment, we believe that⁠ learning, reflection, and action must begin immediately in our personal lives. Pausing to apprehend the gravity of Floyd’s death, the historical and contemporary political contexts in which it occurred, and the tools for self-care and resistance that are available to us is paramount.

We invite you to explore the resources below as you process this tragedy and the broader histories of violence in which it is embedded:

The Racist Roots of American Policing: From Slave Patrols to Traffic Stops
This piece from The Conversation explores the oft-neglected origins of modern American policing in antebellum-era slave patrols.

This resource addresses gaps in city-reported data to provide what is thought to be one of the most complete accounts of police killings in the United States. This data has been utilized by researchers at institutions including the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, University of Pennsylvania, and Indiana University.

When Police Brutality Has You Questioning Humanity and Social Media is Enough
Psychiatrist Dr. Imani J. Walker outlines a number of measures that people of color can take to promote their well being in the wake of police violence happening in our own communities and elsewhere.

How to Raise a Black Son in America
This acclaimed TED talk by writer and academic Clint Smith explores the unique challenges inherent in black parenting, as well as some of the broader implications of being black in the United States.

Between the World and Me
Ta Nehisi-Coates’ acclaimed work blends memoir and searing criticism to give voice to the history and present reality of anti-black racism in the United States, as well as a vision of what the future of this country could be.

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
A list of actions that white people can take to counter anti-black racism as it manifests in contexts ranging from city governments to one’s own interpersonal practices and approaches to childrearing.

The Conversation We Must Have with Our White Children
Courtney E. Martin, author of The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream, offers concrete suggestions to parents about how to raise white children with an awareness of racism, and cultivate their sense of responsibility for challenging it within themselves and the world around them.

White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Robin DiAngelo’s acclaimed book offers a wealth of tools and mental models that white people can use to unlearn racism and embrace new modes of engaging with people of color.

This article was originally published on Facing History and Ourselves’s blog, Facing Today.

Kaitlin Smith

Facing History and Ourselves

Kaitlin Smith is a Marketing and Communications Writer for Facing History and Ourselves.