In America, slave owners can be commemorated but a George Floyd statue can’t stand in peace

OPINION: After a George Floyd statue is defaced in New York City, writer Touré asks: "Hasn't George suffered enough?"

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It hurts my heart to see the statue of George Floyd in New York City be defaced. Hasn’t George suffered enough? Yet even now in death some white people can’t respect him. I’m used to it — we’ve seen videos of people defacing Black Lives Matter signs and bullet holes in a sign memorizing Emmett Till

 George Floyd Statue
A statue of George Floyd is unveiled at Flatbush Junction on June 19, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

There’s no way to protest racism that would be non-threatening enough for white people. But George Floyd is different, some white people say, because he was a criminal and we should not have statues for criminals. 

America is filled with statues commemorating people who were slave owners, which wasn’t a crime back then but it is now and it was always a moral crime but let’s focus on George Floyd. Floyd is not being memorialized because of his life, which was surely checkered and damaged by drug addiction. He committed a terrible crime and paid with his freedom. Instead, Floyd is memorialized for his death where he was not afforded the dignity we would give to a mongrel dog.

The memorials seem to rescue him from the image of his body being slowly destroyed as Derek Chauvin kneeled over him like a successful big game hunter kneeling over a prize kill.

Derek Chauvin George Floyd
Former MPD officer Derek Chauvin (left) and George Floyd (right), the man he and three fellow policemen face trials for killing. (Twitter/Ben Crump Law)

Floyd is memorialized as a symbol of a moment — the martyr of racist police brutality and millions of Americans coming together to protest. Floyd is a symbol, hopefully, to police officers, a reminder that if they misuse their power they could create another George Floyd and maybe end up in prison like Chauvin. 

But above all, in America, citizens deserve and are promised respect from their government. That’s a key principle in this country. That doesn’t change because a person has broken the law in the past — he can still be arrested with dignity. 

Once I had lunch with then San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris who told me the law isn’t there just to protect angels. 

If Dylan Roof can be arrested with dignity after mass murder but you think George Floyd doesn’t deserve respect in his last moments, maybe you should just say Black Lives don’t Matter because we can see you thinking it. 


Touré is the host of the podcasts Toure Show and Democracyish and the podcast docuseries Who Was Prince? He is also the author of six books.

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