The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Editorial: Pelosi falters with misguided message

Amber Davis/The Collegian

There’s been a lot of celebration following the murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and rightly so. Chauvin’s conviction comes after a history of police not being held accountable for the killing of unarmed Black men. 

But it’s important to remember in all of this: George Floyd did not sacrifice himself. 

According to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, though, he did. 

“Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice,” Pelosi said during a press conference the evening the verdict was announced. “For being there to call out to your mom — how heartbreaking was that — call out for your mom, ‘I can’t breathe.’”

The phrase “I can’t breathe” became famous as the last words of Eric Garner, another unarmed Black man, when he was killed by police in 2014. Although it’s since become a mantra to be spit in the face of injustice, Floyd said those words beneath Chauvin’s knee because he too could not physically breathe. He was dying. 

To pretend otherwise is to downplay the loss of Floyd’s life. He didn’t die as part of some necessary evil conducted by the universe to draw attention to police brutality. 

He died because he encountered a crooked cop, just like Eric Garner did and just like so many others before and after them did. 

Pelosi may have been well-meaning in her remarks. She might have been searching for a profound meaning in such a cruel and easily avoidable murder, but the reason Floyd’s death ignited a movement wasn’t because he intended it to. 

It was for the exact opposite reason.

Thanking Floyd for dying ignores the helplessness he faced in the minutes before his death. It ignores the hopes and dreams he held that were taken from him as his life drained on video. 

It ignores the fact that he didn’t have a choice.

This isn’t to say the attention Floyd’s death brought to issues of racism and police brutality isn’t important, or that his death didn’t plant seeds of change. It did, but had it not been Floyd, it would have been another unarmed Black man down the line when it should never have been anyone at all. 

After a storm of Internet backlash, Pelosi clarified her statement in a tweet, writing, “George Floyd should be alive today. 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 and pain.” 

The verdict reached in the Chauvin trial is a step in the right direction from a place that was so far from it. Pelosi and others are pushing the recently introduced “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” which, if passed, will combat police misconduct and racial bias in policing. 

These changes are good. It’s important, though, to remember that the loss of life they sprouted from wasn’t some grand design of cosmic willpower, but was something that shouldn’t have happened at all. 

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