By Tom Squitieri
WASHINGTON –The door opens and she enters the house, en route to see the President of the United States. A year after a door closed on her.
Gianna Floyd, the daughter of George Floyd, joined other members of her family to visit President Biden on the one-year anniversary of her father’s murder under the crushing knee of a police officer.
His death triggered violence in American streets and a jarring of American minds, a cold bucket of chilling reality tossed on us to grasp just how far we have come — or failed – in making this country a place for all of us.
Blacks Lives Matter took the stage in many dramas — yet the key drama played out among those of us who were not members of that group. We knew that black lives, our lives, matter; our lives are best secured when the equality we proclaim is practiced.
A door opens at the White House. A daughter tells the president of the United States she is hungry, and soon finds ice cream, Cheetos, chocolate milk, in front of her. Her family members find renewed hope that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — legislation that would set up a national registry of police misconduct, ban racial and religious profiling by law enforcement and overhaul qualified immunity for police officers — will pass Congress.
“If you can make federal laws to protect the bird, which is the bald eagle, you can make federal laws to protect people of color,” Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, told reporters after meeting with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
The bald eagle is America’s national bird. One year after George Floyd’s murder, what doors may have closed? Which ones shall open next?
Some started opening the same day that U.S. Marine opened one for Gianna Floyd.
On that day, Kristin Clarke was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the first Black woman to lead the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department. Clarke’s confirmation breaks barriers in a department that was established in 1957.
“Our nation is a healthier place when we respect the rights of all communities,” she said.
Her confirmation followed a previous door opened at Justice, when in April the Senate confirmed Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the first woman of color to fill the Justice Department’s No. 3 position.
On the day Gianna Floyd was enjoying snacks at the White House, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure was confirmed to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She will be the first Black person to hold the position.
About the same time, another door opened 943 miles west of Washington, D.C. in Jefferson City, Missouri. There, Robin Ransom became the first black woman — and only the third African American judge – to become a member of the state’s Supreme Court.
“While I may be the first African American woman to be part of this court, I’d also like to say that I have never lived by a label or by any identity that anyone’s tried to put upon me,” she told reporters. “When I look in the mirror, I have always been Robin. And I always live my life to be kind to everyone and to be the best person I can be, and I bring those same attributes to being on this court.”
Doors opening across America.
A diversity of ideas is what we all seek. Voices heard in outrage, in concern, asking questions out loud and with renewed vigor to find better pathways to a better nation for all of us. Dreams fulfilled. Where do we go, on the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, to find meaning behind the numbers that show the diversity of our American landscape.
More doors open.
One day later, in the same White House where Gianna Floyd captivated and just steps away from the Oval Office, Karine Jean-Pierre became the first Black woman in 30 years to lead a formal White House press briefing.
“It’s a real honor to be standing here today. I appreciate the historic nature, I really do. But I believe that being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building, is not about one person. It’s about what we do on behalf of the American people,” Jean-Pierre said. “Clearly the president believes that representation matters and it’s another reason why I think we’re all so proud that this is the most diverse administration in history.”
Jean-Pierre’s parents came from Haiti; Clarke’s parents emigrated from Jamaica. The much-touted melting pot of America in play. Diversity in origin, diversity in ideas, diversity in letting daylight enter the darkness.
One year later, some doors open. Many more still locked. We are becoming better locksmiths.