The Midpoint: Where Racial Justice Meets Pop Culture

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a year of tragedy.

2020 has been a rough year as we lost hundreds of thousands of American’s due to Covid-19. The year 2020 also took the lives of many celebrity idols, which was felt far and wide by their fans.

A popular social media blog recently posted a picture (featured on the right) of some of the lives that were lost in 2020. The picture is captioned “#TSRAngelz: 2020 took a lot from us, including loved and respected souls—both pictured and not pictured. Sending love and light to everyone who lost a loved one this year. #RestInPeace #KobeBryant #GigiBryant #PopSmoke #BreonnaTaylor #GeorgeFloyd #ChadwickBoseman #NayaRiveria #AlexTrebek #KingVon #AndreHarell #JanetDubois #TonyListerakaDebo #JusticeRuthBaderGinsburg

Upon first seeing the picture I did not immediately notice George Floyd, only Breonna Taylor. I then began to question what message was being portrayed by the picture; is the picture meant to show celebrities that we lost in the year 2020 or influential people.

I will never support the idolization of black people who have been killed by law enforcement officers. Since the news of the shooting of Breonna Taylor she has been turned into an icon to a certain extent. We have seen billboards with the her picture on it, hashtags of her name misused, and her picture used on flyers to promote conferences. How are people able to take a horrible situation and then begin to treat the person as a major influencer before their untimely deaths.

There is a line to be drawn between racial justice and pop culture. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are not and were not celebrities. It would have been more impactful to create a collage of celebrities who died in 2020 and a separate one for unarmed black people who lost their lives in 2020 due to police brutality or hatred fueled racists such as the individuals involved in the Ahmaud Arbery case.

People are idolizing George Floyd and Breonna Taylor due to the fact that their killings had an influence on society. This is true they did have an impact but how much of an impact did their deaths have in comparison to all of the other black people who were killed by the police in 2020? It is one thing to fight for justice but another to treat them like they are celebrities.

Their deaths came at a time where the world was at a stand still due to Covid-19; The video of the life slowly leaving George Floyd’s body and the news of what happened to Breonna Taylor. Therefore, yes their deaths were impactful, but we have to take into account how many other lives were lost due to the police after them. Both are extremely tragic events, they are pictured with people who had an immense impact on pop culture and the world. Bernie Taylor has not received justice and most likely wont due to the settlement her family accepted and nothing major has happened yet with the case of the officers involved in the murder of George Floyd.

To put them in a picture with celebrities to me is inappropriate they are not pop culture figures; they are real people who were killed by police officers who didn’t receive justice.

I took to social media out of curiosity to see what others thought about them being placed in the picture; I posed the question-“Do you think that Breonna Taylor and George Floyd should have been included in the picture?”

Here are some of the responses I received:

-“Yes their deaths sparked a lot of change”

Their lives did not spark a lot of change, however they did lead to protests and awareness. They also lead to the creation of laws to “ensure” that these situations never happen again, however, it is useless in a sense to create a bill but not ensure justice for the life that was lost that inspired the bill.

-“No . because although they were unjustly murdered, it seems like it was supposed to be influential/ famous people. They were neither.”

Yes they were not famous or influential, their deaths were part of the Black Lives Matter movement but do we truly think that they were impactful enough to lead to real change? Are they more influential than the other black lives we lost by police brutality?

-“Racial inequality will always be a battle but those two have opened the eyes of non Poc”

Yes, they did open the eyes of non Poc people, but were their eyes really opened or were they just invested in the movement for the moment? Did they understand the complexity of what black lives matter means?

-“Yes the picture is respecting those who we lost this year”

This is true but the caliber of people in the picture is conflicting

-“No, if so they should have put everyone who died, not just the popular ones”

This is why they should have created separate collages

-“Yes, George Floyd sparked the biggest protest in world history”

I’m not sure if I would categorize the protest as the biggest in world history but it is definitely an unforgettable one

-“Breonna Taylor’s death brought light to difficulties black women face daily”

I would say that her death shed light on the fact that women are victims of police brutality as well, but I don’t think I would say that her death shed light on the difficulties that black women face everyday.

To further solidify my point as to why they should not have been in the picture, let’s not forget that George Floyd was technically nominated for “Time’s Person of the Year for 2020.”What did George Floyd do to acquire such a nomination? Due to the fact that he lost his life to police brutality he should be the person of the year? He did not win person of the year.

To place them on a pedal stool takes away from what we are fighting for; racial and social justice/equality. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor will forever be marked in history for what happened to them, but instead of picturing them with celebrities let’s do the work to make sure that there are no more George Floyds and Breonna Taylors who lose their lives, especially without justice.

The picture is distasteful, and it appears that the creator just threw together a picture of people who lost their lives in 2020 without thinking about where the line should be drawn between the fight for racial justice and icons/celebrities who died in 2020.

Idolizing victims of police brutality does nothing to receive justice or to stop these situations from occurring over and over again. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor had an impact on society, yes, but not enough of an impact to ensure that they received justice.

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