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Video: VA House Majority Leader Charniele Herring – the First African American to Hold that Position in the State’s History – Speaks Powerfully About George Floyd’s Murder

"I felt like [Chauvin] was snuffing out and suffocating the life and the promise and the vitaility of our country"

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A little while ago, Virginia House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) posted the following video, in which she spoke powerfully and emotionally about the murder of George Floyd, about institutional racism,

  • “It’s taken me a while because for the past days I have been going through a range of emotions, from crying really hard to being downright angry…”
  • She paraphrased a speech by her niece at her school: “We are seemingly coming to a monthly realization that Black lives are disposable, and that our pleas for help fall on deaf ears.” According to Majority Leader Herring, “She’s exactly right, that’s what it seems to be.”
  • “This is the reality of Black people in this country…When we saw an African-American man handcuffed, laid prone, with the knee of a police officer at his neck, and we heard the words we’ve heard before – ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ – and that police officer not relent, that’s where the tears begin, that’s where the anger starts.”
  • “It was not snuffing out only the life of Mr. Floyd.  We realize that that is symbolic of so much more. For me, I felt like he was snuffing out and suffocating the life and the promise and the vitaility of our country.” 
  • Majority Leader Herring told a story about how, when she was a girl, a white woman behind the counter at a store falsely accused her – as she had apparently done to many other black children over the years – of attempting to steal a doll. Herring asked, “How much more do we need to take? When are my brothers and sisters going to speak out…when you hear people make a racist comment?”
  • A key point: “When we talk as African-Americans about institutional racism, when we say it is real, open your eyes. Think about Amy Cooper…in Central Park…Why did she do that? She knew that the power those declarations have with the police and the possible consequences for Mr. Cooper…If you do not know about the Central Park incident, open your eyes. Google it. Read a newspaper. Stand at a socially distanced safe space, 6 feet apart, with a mask on, and ask your neighbor!”
  • “Mr. Floyd is not with us, and we are still here. My plea is that you do not allow this to dampen your spirit, whether you be Black or White, Asian, whatever race you are.”
  • “I’m going to persist on, because my country was built on the backs of my ancestors. I am going to continue to vote, because I believe in the power of our democracy. Our democracy gives me the ability to sit here and talk to you. But I want you to do a couple things. Take care of yourself. Make sure you vote…We have no-excuse absentee voting…”
  • Next time legislators talk about institutional racism, I will be very disappointed if someone responds that that is putting a knife in their back.” (Majority Leader Herring is referring to this, by the way)
  • “What happened to Mr. Floyd, what happened to Mr. Cooper, what happened to Mr. Garner, and on and on and on, that’s what we’re talking about…People do these acts because they know that there are no consequences, they know that racism is tolerated.  This cannot happen again…Police officers are supposed to be the keepers of our constitution…Do not allow what happened to snuff out, to suffocate our ability to correct the injustice.””