George Floyd Square Stands Strong as Some Try to Bulldoze it With ‘Critical Face Theory’ Hysteria
MINNEAPOLIS — It’s Sunday and there’s a respectful silence at George Floyd Square, as if people’s voices are pressed down to whispers by the gravity of the signs, the colorful murals, the pain-laden poems, the candles and flowers and the spot outside the Cup Foods store where a man’s murder under the knee of a police officer sparked a full-throated national outcry over systemic racism.
That outcry has been met with force by racism denialists, white conservatives who found a once-obscure area of legal study — critical race theory — strapped it to the front of their right-wing-media bulldozer and now use it to try and knock down what happened at this intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.
As a minister preaches to a small group of parishioners under a tent kitty-corner from Cup Foods, visitors walk reverently around the steel raised-fist sculpture at the center of the intersection, looking at signs about other victims of police shootings, including Chicago’s 13-year-old Adam Toledo.
East of the intersection, on the outer brick wall of Cup Foods, someone used a small stencil and black spray paint to mark these words: “CHANGE IS COMING.”
One can hope. But for change to come, more people who look like me need to visit places like this and feel a tiny fraction of the weight born by others, while opening their minds to the injustices that remain woven into our social fabric.
It’s easier, by far, to hide from uncomfortable realities. To defensively say talk of systemic racism is an attempt to make white people feel guilty, as if feeling guilt is worse than feeling afraid to call the police or having to explain to your kids why they might be treated differently by police than white youth.
It’s easier to parrot fear of something misunderstood like critical race theory and demand students learn less about America’s deep flaws. It’s easier to gin up a crisis threatening white people and leap to address that rather than see the ongoing crisis facing Black people and give it the attention it deserves.
It’s easier to stay away from places like George Floyd Square, or the South or West sides of Chicago, and hide behind the line from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that conservatives love to quote: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
That should be dubbed “The King Quote White People Use to Claim that Criticizing White People for Being Racist Is Actually Racist.”
Trotting that line out as a defense against studying the complicated history of racism in this country and acknowledging the obvious existence of systemic racism is no different from using critical race theory as a scare-term. It’s a distraction, like a magician throwing a smoke bomb before disappearing from the stage.