Dear Candace Owens and Glenn Beck, George Floyd is the Perfect Martyr for the Black Lives Matter Movement

Ama Karikari-Yawson, Esq.
6 min readJun 10, 2020
George Floyd

This movement feels different.

During my less than forty years on this earth, I have sadly lived through too many cases of police brutality and white vigilante violence against black men, women, and children. I was in elementary school when I saw the horrific footage of Rodney King being beaten by police officers. Sodomy became my horrifying new vocabulary word as a high-school student when I learned that New York City police officers viciously shoved a broomstick up the anus of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima after beating Louima up with their fists, nightsticks, and police radios. I was in college when I was invited to my first protest for the death of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo who was shot dead by plain-clothes police officers when he reached for his wallet. As I grew older, the list grew longer, and it now includes Patrick Dorismond, Sean Bell, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Breyonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more.

Now, George Floyd is on the list.

Throughout the years, there have always been protests and vigils. However, this moment after the brutal murder of George Floyd feels different. It feels as if sustainable change may actually be on the horizon as hundreds of thousands of global citizens from the USA, Iran, France, Germany, Ghana, and multiple other countries brave the COVID-19 filled streets to protest police brutality and visit George Floyd vigils, not day after day, but week after week.

Moreover, in the past few weeks, we have seen numerous corporations speak out against police brutality. NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, has apologized for not listening to players who had peacefully protested police brutality earlier. UberEats is specifically highlighting black-owned restaurants to patronize and has waived delivery fees for those restaurants. But most importantly, the Democrats have prepared a sweeping police reform bill which includes training programs, bans on chokeholds, and a police use-of-force incidents.

This feeling of momentum for the movement has caused many to ask whether George Floyd is worthy of being the catalyst for this intense activism. They have asked why he should be the face of Black Lives Matter activism.

During the first week of June, Black conservative Candace Owens was on conservative radio host Glenn Becks’s show and both of them questioned the Black Lives Matter movement for rallying for change after George Floyd’s killing. During the interview, Owens said, it “sickens” her that Floyd “has been held up as a martyr.” She then proceeded to discuss the litany of sins committed by George Floyd. She discussed his arrests and stints in prison as well as one particularly gruesome crime in which Floyd was convicted of aggravated assault for a robbery in which he entered a woman’s house and held a gun to her pregnant belly.

During the show, Glen Beck conceded that the officers should not have treated George Floyd as they did and they should not have killed him, but he also questioned the black community for engaging in activism surrounding Floyd’s death. Beck admonished that Rosa Parks was handpicked to be a face of the civil rights movement and today’s activists should learn from their predecessors and be more “discerning” when picking black people for whom to advocate.

I completely disagree.

The Black Lives Matter movement is not your mother’s civil rights movement and I’m happy about that.

Rosa Parks was indeed handpicked. Some other bold black women and girls refused to give up their seats on buses before Rosa Parks. One such person was Claudette Colvin who was arrested as a teenager for violating the city’s segregation laws. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or NAACP considered using Colvin’s case to challenge segregation laws but they ultimately opted not to do so. Officially, the reasons were that Colvin was too young and she was also an unwed mother. I have also heard that Colvin was not chosen because she was dark-skinned with kinky hair and the NAACP leadership felt that a lighter-skinned black woman with straighter hair would garner more sympathy.

It is the very rejection of this archaic and detrimental thinking that makes the Black Lives Matter so powerful and that makes George Floyd a perfect martyr. The very idea that black people have to engage in the politics of respectability in which black leaders judge the culture, habits, and decisions of the black masses and black individuals before fighting for justice is harmful because it assumes that black people are not inherently respectable.

The Black Lives Matter movement has moved beyond respectability politics to proclaim that All Black Lives Matter.

Whether you are dark-skinned or light-skinned, your black life matters.

Whether you are tall or short, your black life matters.

Whether you are economically wealthy or financially destitute, your black life matters.

Whether you have twelve kids out of wedlock or zero kids out of wedlock, your black life matters.

Whether you are married or single, your black life matters.

Whether you smoke weed or not, your black life matters.

Whether you are illiterate or have a doctorate, your black life matters.

Whether you have a criminal record or you do not have a criminal record, your black life matters.

George Floyd engaged in some crimes during his lifetime. He was also an athlete, truck driver, security guard, a local rapper, loving father, kind friend, caring brother, and a church-goer. All of these things can be true at the same time.

White supremacist Dylann Roof brutally murdered nine Mother Emmanuel A.M.E worshippers after they welcomed him into their midst for prayer and police officers bought him food at Burger King because he was hungry. George Floyd allegedly used a counterfeit bill that he may not have known was counterfeit and he was brutally choked to death as he gasped “I can’t breathe” and onlookers begged for his life.

There is something inherently unfair about that and George Floyd’s death revealed that inequity.

George Floyd is the perfect martyr because his death showed us racism in its most raw, gruesome, brutal, and arrogant form. For nearly nine minutes, a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, choked a handcuffed black man, George Floyd, with his knee in broad daylight while civilian witnesses begged and pleaded for the officer to stop. The act was unjustified, irrational, and lethal. The same can be said for the racism that underfunds black schools when there are more than enough resources to go around. The same paradigm applies to white families who flee from communities as soon as black families move in.

Moreover, it is the same lunacy that the late Princeton Professor Devah Pager revealed when her study showed that among candidates with no criminal record, white applicants are more than twice as likely to receive a callback than qualified black applicants and white applicants with a felony conviction have the same or better chances of getting a callback than black applicants with clean backgrounds.

George Floyd is the perfect martyr because we have learned about his childhood dream of becoming a Supreme Court justice and so when we think of him we have to ask ourselves about how we can create a society in which black children from economically disadvantaged communities can have higher chances of becoming judges.

George Floyd is a perfect martyr for the Black Lives Matter movement because he shows us that a black person does not have to be perfect for his or her life to matter.

Thank you for reading. I am a diversity trainer and a successful entrepreneur in the staffing and education arenas. My books can be found here and I can be reached at ama@milestales.com.

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Ama Karikari-Yawson, Esq.

Ama Karikari-Yawson is a sought-after national diversity trainer and a successful entrepreneur in the staffing and education arenas.