HOUSTON - Support for the black community and its call for justice is at an all-time high according to a Houston historian because the tragic death of George Floyd is fueling unity among people from all walks of life.
Historian Matt Clavin says for years now, after unarmed black people are killed, blacks make impassioned pleas for someone to be held accountable, often without success. Now after this video of George Floyd's death Clavin says like never before it too is effecting one race, his time the human race.
"This is a shock to me. I haven’t seen this in my lifetime,” says University of Houston History Professor Matt Clavin.
The faces of the protestors, the marchers uniting against injustice after the death of George Floyd are those of all colors.
"As a person who studies issues like this for a living I’m shocked, pleasantly surprised if not greatly surprised,” Clavin adds.
In fact, look no further than your email to see many who are speaking out this time, against the brutality of blacks aren’t members of the black community. These words are included in the email from Ulta Beauty’s CEO “We firmly believe black lives matter and we stand with those making their voices heard”. This one from Vans sneakers “We stand in solidarity with the black community. Black lives matter”.
Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff who’s in every department store from Saks to Neimans to Nordstrom sent out a letter saying in part “It’s time for everyone to take a stand”. "We just all have to do something and don’t not do something because you’re scared or you don’t know how to do it. If you mess up and make a mistake apologize. There’s no time for passivity right now,” says Minkoff who says the video of George Floyd being killed has moved her to push for change.
"Things have been built into our society for 400 years that have to really be taken apart and undone. With social media amplifying everything in a greater way no one can hide this from us anymore. So I think it forces people to be like we have to do more we have to stop this,” Minkoff adds.
"I don’t care who you are you watch that video, George Floyd didn’t do anything. He didn’t deserve this. So to see that I tell you my skin crawls,” says Clavin who adds that catching crimes against people of color on camera isn’t new. "As I tell my children about Rodney King they've never heard of him. They don’t know stuff like this has been happening on screen for 20, 30 years now but this video is different”. Different? Clavin says often a person simply moving, even if to save their own life as in the Ahmaud Arbery killing, can be misinterpreted as aggressive behavior but Floyd wasn’t moving only declaring he can’t breathe and begging for his life.
“The savagery of a murder being stretched out over nine minutes and to hear the onlookers who are so respectfully and politely pleading for this man’s life. It’s awful. It reminds me of a lynching. Maybe more disturbing than the look on George Floyd’s face as he’s being murdered, is the cop. The policeman you look at his face he’s not traumatized. This is easy for him. It’s inhumane,” says Clavin.
He says officers are often given the benefit of the doubt when they say they pulled the trigger in a split second decision because they feared for their life but Clavin says none of those claims can be made this time. "There’s no gray area. You have a white police officer executing a black man on the street and it is horrific and I think everyone is reacting viscerally to this very, very ugly video".
"We’re all human and you have to care about your fellow human,” says Minkoff who says her company has always stood with and for diversity.
Now one thing she’s doing to make a difference is joining designer Aurora James in the 15% pledge, calling for corporations to commit to making sure 15% of its business is with black-owned businesses. "That could deliver over $1-trillion back into black communities. To me money is power. That’s an easy way that people can take action as well as educating themselves, if they’re not black, on black history and the disadvantages that occur everyday. You can take an inventory of your home and say great I’m going to buy 15% from black founded companies”.
Minkoff adds, “On my social media I said ok I’m going to use this platform to elevate black voices as much as I can even more than I was doing before. If you go to our Instagram I’m doing a lot of interviews with black business owners and what you can do to help them survive. Our podcast series Super Women With Rebecca Minkoff, we are publishing a ton of episodes that are with black women so that we can hear their voices and hear about their challenges and how they’ve come through and we are actively and aggressively researching marketplace solutions so on my website you can come to a marketplace of black founders and women of color”.
“But this has to continue. It can’t last for a week. It can’t last for two days. People have to stay loud, they have to stay vigilante. They have to vote in November if they want anything to actually change moving forward,” adds Clavin who says because this isn’t one racial group clamoring for change, the voices are being heard this time and he says history-making change is likely to happen only if the groups continue to stand together.