Someone jokingly tweeted that COVID-19 lost a 28-3 lead to racism in America. The analogy is based on the infamous Super Bowl 51 when the frontrunner, the Atlanta Falcons, lost a 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots and, as a result, lost the Super Bowl in the last few minutes of the final quarter. This sentiment is still being stated after everything the African American community has endured in America. From 400 years of slavery to the Jim Crow system. From racial profiling leading to the New Jim Crow's mass incarceration of African Americans to the disproportionate cases of police brutality. To the murders of African Americans, with the most recent incident occurring in the midst of a global pandemic that is also disproportionately impacting the African American community. No, this is no joke at all and is even more evidence that racism still exists.
And 8 minutes and 46 seconds is precisely the time it took for this life-shifting moment to bring the nation, and the world at large, to its ultimate tipping point.
Once again, African Americans are fighting dual battles: the battle against COVID-19 health disparities and the one against social injustice caused by racism. To be frank, when COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, first hit the shores of America, African Americans thought for a moment that it would be the one crisis they could escape. Many African Americans thought that this time the melanin in their Black skin would act as the protective shield needed to combat the virus. That for the first time in American history, Black skin would not relegate Black people to immediate judgment and discrimination. That this time, just maybe, their Black skin would spare the entire African diaspora of this injustice. But it did not take long for this fantasy to be revealed as untrue. Shockingly, what was revealed instead was that over 60% of the deaths caused by COVID-19 were suffered by African Americans. The irony of this is that this data served to shed a glaring light on the disparities that have existed for centuries for the descendants of enslaved Africans since their ancestors were first brought to America.
As the world "sheltered in place" and life appeared to be still, people nationally and around the world finally began to realize that discrimination — leading to the lack of healthcare and education — has caused conditions that continue to keep large populations of African Americans in a cycle of struggle. COVID-19, in its own way, revealed America's ugly secrets and sins. Yet while these facts were noticed, merely and barely, there was still nothing being done to dismantle the system that perpetuated these inequities. Until, that is — in the midst of a global quarantine combating the health pandemic — three law-enforcement-related killings of African Americans were perpetrated within a two-week period, the last of which was witnessed by the world by way of a video showing the murder of a handcuffed George Floyd by an officer.
The world watched for 8 minutes and 46 seconds as the officer held his knee on Floyd's neck and suffocated him. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the world watched as George Floyd pleaded for his life. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, Floyd endured this injustice before expelling his last breath and his final words: "I can't breathe." And 8 minutes and 46 seconds is precisely the time it took for this life-shifting moment to bring the nation, and the world at large, to its ultimate tipping point.
COVID-19, in its own way, revealed America's ugly secrets and sins.
"The Tipping Point," as defined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book by the same name, is the boiling point, the point of no return and demonstrates how small things can make a big difference. In the case of racism usurping the historical context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the small thing was an 8 minute and 46 second incident that ignited a fire to light the change of 400 years of oppression. In the words of George Floyd's 6-year-old daughter on the heels of his passing, "Daddy changed the world." The 8 minutes and 46 seconds that ended Floyd's life ultimately led to a global revolution of change, a change to dismantle a system plagued with racism wherein America has continued to press its knee of social injustice on the necks of Black folks.
This time, America's greatest pandemic, racism, had a precursor called COVID-19 that, in its darkest hours, united people that have been separate for generations.
In these moments, Black America is screaming in protest against the violence and police brutality that continues to take Black lives, while at the same time fighting the battle against anarchists fueling social injustice by trying to hijack the moment — a attempt to make their violence appear as African American cries of anger. This act in itself once again eclipses the depths of Black America's struggle — making Black people invisible and the recipients of injustice — as many attribute protests to rioting and looting. But just as it was for the Black businesses that were destroyed by vandalism almost 100 years ago in the Tulsa "Black Wall Street," so it is now with COVID-19 closing businesses in Black communities, which are then in turn destroyed by anarchists. It is said that the art of destruction is to ignite chaos and confusion. And it's this very type of confusion that has repeatedly been used to destroy the progress of African Americans for decades.
But not this time. This time, there was a shift, by way of video, social media, and a global health pandemic that made way for coalitions to form a "we are all in this together" solace. A solace that has brought cultures and groups together to build and survive. This time, America's greatest pandemic, racism, had a precursor called COVID-19 that, in its darkest hours, united people that have been separate for generations. This time, the wicked strategy of confusion could not mute the message. This time, there was a multicultural coalition of allies standing with Black America worldwide with unwavering support to right the wrongs of injustice, demand the development and enforcement of policies for equity, and call for a portion of funding from police departments to be put back into the historically underserved African American communities. And this time, words will be replaced with action, and there will be a shift of power to the people.
WRITTEN BYShonda Scott