1968 and 2020; after George Floyd's death will history repeat itself in America?

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Four weeks ago, a video surfaced of a Minneapolis police officer holding his knee on George Floyd's neck. Floyd died. Minnesota and the country erupted in violence and civil unrest.

Fifty-two years ago, Americans weary of a long war in Vietnam cried out for peace overseas and civil rights at home. Demonstrators clashed with police. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated.

1968 was a presidential election year. 2020 is a presidential election year.

So, where are we headed this summer? 

"The reckoning is coming," said Nkechi Taifa, a human rights lawyer and founder The Justice Roundtable.

"What we're having right now is a discussion that was way too long in coming," said Professor Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law at The University of St. Thomas.

Osler and Taifa have worked separately and together to eliminate racial disparities in federal sentencing guidelines and to confront injustice in society.

Are we headed toward another 1968?

"I hope not," said Osler. 

"Actually, I think we're going to be going further than that," said Taifa. 

"That's what I hope," added Osler. "I hope that it's better than 1968."

Osler and Taifa agree we find ourselves in a situation where history could repeat itself. In 1968 people took action. 

Taifa hopes this is the beginning of the end of systemic racism. "Yeah, that there are some real solutions that happen as opposed to paper solutions. And that this country actually reckons with its racist, genocidal, sorted past. And that will only happen if we make it happen. And that's what's happening in the streets right now today."

Why has George Floyd's death sparked an uprising in Minnesota and across the country? 

"So I would say that the killing or I would say murder, of George Floyd was like the tip of the iceberg," said Taifa. "It wasn't just George Floyd as to why everybody is out there in the streets. It is pent up frustrations. People are just crying out for justice. There's been no justice time after time after time and I think that this just happened to be the last straw."

"Right now, I think what people are saying is discussion is not enough," said Osler. "We have to move on and do things. We have to change structures, we have to bring racism to the surface and we have to address systemic racism that extends beyond any one incident."

Taifa believes the change that didn't happen in 1968 is coming now. And the timing has a lot to do with why the civil unrest has taken off.

"We're in the middle of a health pandemic and now we're in the middle of a policing pandemic on top of the health pandemic," she said. "And people are literally risking their lives to express their outrage at what is going on. It's like pandemic on top of pandemic on top of pandemic and I think people are just saying they're not going to take this anymore."

"1968? Yeah, it was right to diversity things like police forces," said Osler. "This time around, we need to dig a lot deeper."