Black teens reflect 1 year after George Floyd’s murder

CBC Kids News • Published 2021-05-25 12:06

‘I think people still hold the same attitudes,’ says teen


Back in September, 16-year-old Mairin Patterson had to block some terms on her social media.

Words like “police brutality,” “Black Lives Matter” and “George Floyd” were flooding her feed.

The London, Ontario, teen said she was overwhelmed by what she was seeing. The news of Floyd’s death was still making waves online and in person, four months after he was murdered by a police officer.

Mairin said she felt like she was spending too much time thinking about Black people dying.

“I just don't really look at a lot of that stuff anymore just because it can be really upsetting.”

Mairin Patterson said it has been especially challenging to be Black this year. (Image submitted by Mairin Patterson)

One year later, the impact of Floyd’s death continues to be felt around the world.

Anti-racism protests, calls for justice and support for the Black Lives Matter movement continue to build momentum.

But has life improved for Black people in a real way? CBC Kids News asked two Canadian teens to reflect on that question.

What happened one year ago?

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, died after a police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest on May 25, 2020.

A drawing of George Floyd outside one of the many memorials in Minneapolis made in his honour. (Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The former officer who knelt on his neck, Derek Chauvin, has since been convicted of three charges related to Floyd’s death.

Click here to learn more about those charges.

Although found guilty, Chauvin has appealed the charges and has not been sentenced to jail time yet.

What has changed since?

Samuel Yohannes, 15, from Toronto, Ontario, followed the fallout from Floyd’s death closely.

For Samuel, seeing more and more people speak out against injustice, racism and police brutality on social media was a positive change.

Samuel Yohannes said before Floyd was murdered, people were quick to dismiss or ignore police brutality. He said that has changed. (Image submitted by Hannah Yohannes)

Samuel said his friends suddenly had “the confidence to, kind of, speak up and give their opinion on how they felt.”

They were willing to step up and say “that it was wrong,” he said. Some even joined protests.

That might not have happened before Floyd’s death, Samuel said.

Protesters and activists march in Minneapolis the day before opening statements in the trial of Derek Chauvin. The former police officer was convicted of three charges related to Floyd’s murder. (Image credit: Octavio Jones/Reuters)

Out of a “very tragic and bad thing,” people were united, Samuel said.

Not enough change for some

A year later, Mairin still struggles to find justice and evidence of change after Floyd’s death.

“You can't take away death once it happens. It's permanent. It's forever.”

Mairin said she watched as friends, family and strangers responded to acts of protest against racism and police brutality. It was all over her social feeds.

Protesters against racism and police brutality march in Whitehorse, Yukon in June, 2020. This was one of several protests that happened in Canada in the wake of Floyd’s death. (Image credit: Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Still, she said sometimes the outrage didn’t feel authentic to her.

Mairin saw people who used to bully her for being Black in elementary school suddenly sharing images of Black Lives Matter protests and activism on their social channels.

“I think most of the activism that's happened in the last year, whether, you know, for Black Lives Matter, for George Floyd … I think it's very performative,” she said.

“I really don't think anything's changed in the last year. I think people still hold the same attitudes.”

Those same attitudes have become more hidden, she said.

“I just think people have gotten better pretending they're not racist.”

Is a better future possible?

Samuel described how tough this past year has been for all people, but especially Black youth.

He wants Black kids across Canada to “keep their heads up” and take a moment to appreciate making it through another year.

A Black Lives Matter rally in Calgary, Alberta in June 2020. Despite the pandemic, thousands of protesters attended rallies like these across Canada in the past year.  (Image credit: Terri Trembath/CBC)

“Just look at yourself in the mirror and just say, ‘I did that. I survived. I made it through,’ I was sent here and I was sent here to stay,” he said.

Samuel looks forward to more police accountability and said he will continue to watch as justice unfolds for Floyd and others.

Mairin said she wants governments to push for change and dismantle old ways of doing things that only value whiteness.

She also said that after a hard year, it's time for Black youth to pause and rest.

“I think we should really cherish ourselves and also just give ourselves a moment to breathe and just congratulate ourselves or just rest after everything that we've ever gone through as people.”

TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Images submitted by Hannah Yohannes, Mairin Patterson, design by Allison Cake/CBC

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