What We’re Reading: George Floyd and ‘The Great Erasure’

Tomorrow, May 25, marks two years since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. With numerous reflections and commentaries set to arrive this week about Floyd and the Summer 2020 protests, we wanted to share one early standout from the New York Times.

In “The Great Erasure,” columnist Charles Blow uses street art created in the wake of Floyd’s death as a metaphor for the erosion of momentum, memory, and urgency. The Times’ interactive multimedia project examined 115 murals created after Floyd’s death—part of what some experts have called “the largest proliferation of street art around one idea or issue or event in history”—then posted before and after photos to show how many had been maintained. As Blow writes, “only 37 were fully intact. In cities from Oklahoma to California, few vestiges remain of what were once vibrant murals painted on asphalt and walls.”

Blow makes a correlation between this vanishing street art and the deliberate attempt in the past two years to “blunt the impact” of national protests following Floyd’s death. The fading art also serves as a tangible, visible sign of how distraction, distortion—and essentially, the daily grind of life—eventually subsumes what once dominated and inspired our collective attention.

“In the streets it was both declaration and confrontation, brazen and assertive. It was forcefully in your face,” Blow writes of the colorful, collaborative, hope-filled murals.

His conclusion two years later? “Passions flare and subside; power endures.”

View “The Great Erasure” here.

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Screenshot courtesy of New York Times.