Dr. Yohuru Williams on Floyd anniversary: We've made great gains but a lot needs to be done

A flashpoint in the movement toward social justice, the murder of George Floyd became a catalyst for change. Two years later, an examination of the progress made and the work still ahead.

"'I'd say that in terms of conversation, we've made great gains. The level of conversation that people are having around race today is much more substantive to what we were having previous to the murder of George Floyd. But if we're talking about real gain and real change there's a lot that needs to be done," says Dr. Yohuru Williams.

Dr. Williams is the Founding Director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas. He says that race remains the third rail in American politics and culture and right now tensions are high.

"Looking at the Buffalo killings just a short time ago is an indicator that we have a long way to go. And it's not just issues on policing. It's in housing, it's in education and other areas where communities of color see significant challenges," says Dr. Williams.

In an ongoing push for equality, Dr. Williams notes that locally he's seen some breakthroughs.

He says, "The murder of George Floyd had one positive consequence in that it elevated the work of organizations like the Northside Achievement Zone, Pillsbury United, Way to Grow, both the YWCA St. Paul and Minneapolis and Interfaith Action St. Paul. And I think that's a good thing because those organizations were tackling issues of racial justice in areas such as housing and the social determinants of health. The real fear in this moment is whether that's sustainable."

Two years after George Floyd, the events of the past continue to pave the way forward.

"I think what we have to remember is that we have to make an everyday commitment to small acts that contribute to racial justice in our community. We can't treat this as a holiday...and simply say this is a time to remember George Floyd. This is a time to remember racial injustice and the daily commitment that all of us need to make in order to bend that arc in ways that will actually improve our communities and improve outcomes in our community," says Dr. Williams.