For many, the story of the weeks of protests in the summer of 2020 began with the horrific 9 minutes and 29 seconds when police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd on camera, and it ended with the sweeping federal, state, and intrapersonal changes that followed.
It is a seemingly straightforward story, in which white America finally witnessed enough brutality to move their collective consciousness. The only problem is that it isn't true. George Floyd was not the first Black man to be killed by police—he wasn’t even the first to inspire nation-wide protests—yet his death came at a time when America was already at a tipping point.
Nick Charles, NPR’s new chief culture editor, leads a panel discussion with his co-authors of Say Their Names: How Black Lives Came to Matter in America to probe this critical shift. Charles and Michael H. Cottman, Patrice Gaines, Curtis Bunn, and Keith Harriston examine how inequality has been propagated throughout history, from Black imprisonment and the Convict Leasing program to long-standing predatory medical practices and over-policing.
The panel of seasoned journalists highlights the disparities that have long characterized the dangers of being Black in America. They examine the many moderate attempts to counteract these inequalities, from the modern Civil Rights movement to Ferguson, and how the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others pushed compliance with an unjust system to its breaking point. They also outline the momentous changes that have resulted from this movement, while at the same time proposing necessary next steps to move forward.
The panelists’ book, Say Their Names: How Black Lives Came to Matter in America (Grand Central Publishing), is available for purchase.
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