George Floyd Died Today

Black Lives Matter 2

Black Lives Matter. Photo by Callen Harty.

George Floyd died today. And another piece of America went with him.

I want to believe that the racist culture in which our nation and our entire history is so steeped is in decline, and perhaps white women calling police because their privilege is threatened and police officers killing black men because their power is threatened are the last gasps of systemic racism.

But those in power do not give up power easily. Racism is so entrenched in the United States that getting to a place of equity must necessarily require years of deconstructing systems that are designed for the powerful to maintain their power.

George Floyd’s death is a result of the way things are set up and the racism that is ingrained everywhere in this county. Racism is not the domain of the South. It is in Georgia, but also in New York. It is in Louisville and also in Minneapolis. It permeates the very fiber of this country. It is everywhere. In the North it has not always been as overt, but it is just as insidious.

When an entire race or class of people is considered “other” or “less than,” then citizens everywhere, consciously or not, feel superior to that class. White people are inherently racist by virtue of years of growing up privileged in the culture. We have to struggle and work hard to overcome the racism of the culture in which we are raised. We have to consciously seek to change.

There has been an incredible and frightening rise of overt and extreme racism in America, from the shooting of a jogger in Georgia to the police killing of a black man in Minnesota to the appearance of Confederate flags and swastikas in the halls of the Michigan Capitol. It feels like a reaction to the disintegration of a power structure that has been in place for hundreds of years that does not want to let go. But regardless of the reason, people of color are dying because of it, and each time that happens, a piece of our innocence dies also, our excuses for not standing up for our black brothers and sisters are chipped away, and we are laid bare as a nation.

George Floyd died today. He wasn’t killed by one policeman. He was killed by the power structure. He was not the only one. His death was in one place at one time. But people of color are dying daily, hourly, minute by minute–from a disproportionate number of Covid-19 cases, from poverty, from an unrelenting number of oppressions. It is time for all of us to rise up and say “No more!” It is time for the system to relinquish its power and live up to the unfulfilled promise that all of us are created equal.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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