Yates speech at George Floyd Memorial 2022
I first remember becoming aware of racial injustice at age 8 in 1956. My friend Johnny and I were playing tetherball together on the schoolyard during recess. Because he was black, 3 boys started to pick on him and when I stood up for him, they attacked me and my friend. Guess who was sent to the principal’s office and kicked out of school that day. Johnny and me. I knew it was wrong. I have been blessed since then to understand that. I was fortunate to attend an integrated high school at an air force base in the 1960s. We played sports together, socialized together , danced and played hooky together. I have been close to the black community ever since.
I have handled over 100 civil rights cases, most of which all involved people of color. I worked closely with the late Johnnie Cochran and was honored to represent Selwyn and his sister Angela on their civil case for the murder of their nephew George Perry Floyd.
The murder of George Floyd by officer Chauvin shocked the nation and the world forcing everyone to observe and acknowledge that the black community has been justified in its complaints about race-based police brutality against black people.
World-wide protests that included people of every color and ethnicity ushered in a new age of awareness of the racial bias in law enforcement.
George Floyd’s murder made it clear once and for all that Rodney King and the 1000s of similar cases of police brutality against black americans and others of color – were not isolated instances but a part of a more widespread pattern.
The recent May 14th shooting in Buffalo is a clarion call of the imminent threat of virulent white supremacy to the stability of our nation and a reminder that evil is alive and well in our society.
10 killed and at least 3 wounded at a local market. The white supremist manifesto posted online by the shooter reads like the script from a horror movie. The distillation of pure evil!
He justified his killing spree based upon his belief that white Americans are being intentionally replaced by people of color.
The racist, xenophobic philosophy known as the “Great Replacement Theory” is a paranoid notion that white people are being replaced by people of color (Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics and immigrants)
In his manifesto—he wrote “diversity is not a strength”
Where did he get that fallacy from?
Someone taught him that.
We are not born racist!
Everyone has preferences and prejudices
BUT, Racism and bigotry is taught and instilled in people at a young age based upon fear, unfamiliarity, lack of information, ignorance and narcissism.
M0st of the recent shootings are a direct result of hate being proliferated on television and social media through the algorithms that breed alienation and fear.
A widespread white supremacy ideology has gone mainstream on social media
Many of us thought we were moving past, evolving away from racism from what we saw in the 60s. Then social media came to the forefront along with the divisive political rhetoric.
Even though the murder of George Floyd changed the world, the racists came out of the woodwork and were further radicalized online and by the divisive political rhetoric.
Americans (white for the most part) have ignored the insidious crepitation of white supremacy to the point it has become normalized. Forgetting the fundamental truth – that skin color and ethnicity are irrelevant to the dignity that all human beings deserve.
It is the systemic racist structure of American society that resulted in failure to provide equal education to children of color and then blame them for not overcoming poverty and inequality of opportunity.
They are then criminalized based upon their race by fear-based hate crimes and police brutality.
It is my opinion and experience that all black America wants, is equal opportunity and freedom.
Being raised with, going to school with, be friends with, representing and being engaged with black people has taught me that.
I believe that in my heart because of my personal experience and associations over 7 decades with black Americans.
It is those white Americans that are either uninformed or spiritually ignorant that don’t know that and fell threatened by blacks and others of color.
What inspired Buffalo? The murder of George Floyd? The beating of Rodney King as well as thousands of other similar events of police brutality against people of color (many of which were never caught on video and covered up) is HATE.
Love is the antidote to hate!
Love, not hate is the answer. How do we overcome hate with love? Seems almost naïve and delusional – right? Especially in light of the depraved and despicable atrocities that are examples of racism we have seen of late. But it is not.
Love comes from understanding through respectful communication.
It is about respectful communication between ethnicities, understanding we are all in this together. As our savior taught us—the message is inclusivity not exclusivity. His promise was to the world.
The future of our children, grandchildren and the planet depend upon our willingness to listen and open our hearts. To understand that the diversity of other cultures and ethnicities make the garden of humanity beautiful and strong. Racial diversity is the strength of America, the melting pot of the world.
We learn from our fellow brothers and sisters and that is how we evolve spiritually and culturally along with our technological advances.
It will enable the human race to survive and live in harmony with each other and the planet.
So the answer is love, be it tough love, open hearted love, honest and straightforward love, firm in conviction love, BUT LOVE. But we will have to fight for it.
I believe we can fight with love and respect and not let them drag us down to their level.
My brother Sewlyn. Thank you for the honor and opportunity to stand beside you on this momentous occasion to honor your nephew George Perry Floyd who truly did change the world.