Volunteers quickly sprang into action to help clean up the Floyd bust, which is part of an art installation designed to confront social injustice. Perhaps one of the most unsung aspects of Mr. Floyd’s murder has been its galvanic effect on how Americans approach the relationship between built environments and our own history.
How America and Americans choose to honor or disgrace Mr. Floyd’s memory has become a Rorschach test. One view offers us a path away from the politics of racial division, resentment and denial that helped lead us to this moment. An America that recognizes the humanity within Mr. Floyd’s life and legacy is one that possesses a quality of mercy so often denied to victims of police, state, and structural violence. The opposing view doubles down on the politics that poise the nation on the brink of permanent divisions along racial lines that fail to recognize Black humanity even in the lives of children public servants are sworn to protect.
It is now up to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to make this pardon official.
Taken together, what all these instances have in common is the way in which George Floyd’s legacy continues to serve as a touchstone for larger issues of race, citizenship and democracy. From public art commemorating him as a hero to a parole board recommending a posthumous pardon to firefighters brazenly trampling on his memory to perform acts of racial cruelty, George Floyd continues to captivate the national American political and cultural imagination.
George Floyd’s legacy ultimately transcends the demonstrations and confrontations that rocked the nation and parts of the world in 2020. His death inspired tens of millions of American and global citizens to express their anger — but also their joy, their pain.
His tragic murder led to a period of extensive self-reflection that is still unfolding; a time that brought searing new questions to the forefront of American political life. Black death produced national grief on an unprecedented scale, but also shifted America’s moral vision of itself, at least for a time. Black genius, self-love, healing, and wellness also grew out of Floyd’s death — along with a new politics of backlash and racial cruelty.
These disparate responses — all a part of Mr. Floyd’s memory — reflect both the distance we have traveled since his death and the long road that remains ahead of us.