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It's been 2 years since George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis


Today, May 25, marks two years since a police officer murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis. His death triggered a summer of protests demanding racial justice. Two years later, a man walked into a grocery store in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo and killed 10 people for explicitly racist reasons. People in Buffalo are trying to find a way to address a racial divide. NPR's Alana Wise has more.

ALANA WISE, BYLINE: George Floyd's death marked a turning point in the country's already tenuous race relations. His killing at the hands of police sparked months of protests and led to calls to better address Black death at the hands of white assailants. After the Tops shooting this month, the people have renewed their calls for change.

TOLU ODUNSI: I believe the thread between the two tragedies is the dehumanization of Black people in this country.

WISE: Tolu Odunsi is a lecturer in law at the University at Buffalo. In the city, still reeling from the racist attack, residents have made clear that there is no time to wait in addressing Black lives lost to violence.

ODUNSI: To be able to kneel on someone's neck for such an amount of time that kills them, in your mind, you have had to dehumanize that person in the same way to travel and shoot innocent Black people at a supermarket. Again, you have to have that element of thinking, these people are less than human and deserve death.

WISE: For many people, particularly white Americans, Floyd's death was a wake-up call to the realities of systemic racism. The Tops massacre was another cold reminder.

JULIA WISINSKI: Probably around 2020, when the whole George Floyd thing happened, is when we really realized how bad racism still is in America.

WISE: That was 19-year-old Julia Wisinski (ph). At a vigil recently for the Tops shooting, she and her family dropped off flowers to honor the victims. Her sister, Sarah (ph), echoed Julia's comments about George Floyd's death being an eye-opening experience.

SARAH: I think that we need to learn that there needs to be reform with, you know, racism and gun laws, things that will prevent this from happening again.

WISE: Black Americans have long sounded the bell on the dangers of existing within a racist society. After the Tops shooting, those fears were redoubled. A recent poll conducted by The Washington Post found that 75% of Black people were worried they or someone they love might be attacked because of their race. But just 8% of respondents say they were surprised by the shooting. Geo Hernandez (ph) said that these tragedies continue because of government inaction.

GEO HERNANDEZ: I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. We all are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

WISE: After Floyd's death, Democratic lawmakers vowed to address systemic racism. Protests sparked nationwide. And the George Floyd and Policing Act was introduced to Congress. But two years later, the bill has stalled. And officials say racist, violent extremists, like the one police say perpetrated the Tops shooting, remain one of the top domestic threats.

HERNANDEZ: This is embedded racism in our policies, in our practices, in how this city is governed and how our people are continued to be hunted.

WISE: Tolu Odunsi, the law professor, says that in order for real change to be achieved, people in power have to address issues of racism head on.

ODUNSI: There may be those who do not believe in perpetuating violence against Black people. But when you don't see that the racism exists, you're not in a position to stop it.

WISE: Alana Wise, NPR News, Buffalo, N.Y. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise covers race and identity for NPR's National Desk.