A slaveowner in Virginia famed for his savagery towards the humans he kept in bondage decided, after many meetings with his co-conspirators, to rebel against the laws of his government. He stole government weapons and eventually killed many of the troops he once fought with. Back at home, his adopted son George Custis raped his slaves, which he profited off of because the children born became his property to use for labor or sell for cash. Custis also fathered a white child who married a man responsible for more deaths of U.S. troops than any foreign army: Robert E. Lee.
That was the man we glorify as a founding father. George Washington’s refusal to comply with authorities stemmed from a disagreement over taxes and a belief in the inherent dignity of white land-owning males. That George wanted freedom for his class only. The worst day of his life never measured up to the oppression he meted out for the humans he kept shackled to his plantation.
Today, we have a new founding father, and his name is George Floyd. The tax he paid to his oppressors was his life, which slowly left him under the knee of a uniformed officer, who kept one hand in his pocket and whose facial expression was as calm and impassive as the monuments to slavers we maintain and protect right here in Gainesville.
George Washington was the founding father we had. George Floyd is the founding father we need. His death is more eloquent than all the letters and speeches of our first two-term president. His suffering speaks volumes on a topic that has been muffled under the knee of four centuries of brutality and dehumanization. If we care to listen, we can have a new generation of founders: Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor — the list goes on too damned far. Their deaths must become the document that says “We The People” without lying.
I hope one day their statues line a capitol where our legislatures look and live like the people they make laws for. As a matter of fact, George Floyd would make a noble and fitting companion to Abraham Lincoln’s monument in our nation’s capitol. Like Abraham Lincoln, George Floyd is dead and cannot speak any more as a living human being. It is our duty to listen to what his death says to every one of us.
We need a reparations bill that makes black neighborhoods the equal of white neighborhoods in fact and not in dead legal theory — the Emancipation Proclamation the black community has long been owed and which has collected over a century of interest. We need fundamental prison and police reform that saves lives and money — a Declaration of Independence for all people.
We owe this to the founders of our new age. If we don’t listen to their suffering, all the privileged and eloquent lies of our original founders will ring as hollow as our monuments to their whiteness.
Joshua B McCall