America has episodic flare-ups of amnesia. They occur when we move significant events from a headline to a footnote and no longer view them as relevant so we withdraw our attention, alliance and advocacy from them.

Case in point: May 25 marks the four-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

Lest we forget, Floyd was unarmed and being detained for a nonviolent offense — using a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase. America witnessed the slow death of the 46-year-old father as police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, until he lost consciousness and died. It was during those nine minutes and 29 seconds, while video cameras were recording, that we heard Floyd call for his deceased mother and say repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”

America was incensed, heartbroken and embarrassed. Protesters traveled across the country to demonstrate their contempt for the flagrant lack of humanity and gross act of injustice. Politicians passionately pledged reform and accountability. Corporate leaders vowed allyship, investment and leveraged influence for the support of the African American community.

Almost a year after Floyd’s murder and five months into office, perhaps as a gesture to assuage the African American community’s grief, President Joe Biden signed a bill that made Juneteenth a federal holiday. The enactment of this bill was a salve on the wounded spirit of a disheartened people. The conviction and sentencing of Chauvin in June of 2021 was the beginning of justice and healing.

Countless people have since been awakened. They have been empowered and emboldened to use their voice, privilege and resources to advocate for those who are marginalized, those who dwell on the periphery and are subject to indignations, humiliation and injustice on a regular basis.

Since May 2020, beautiful murals have been unveiled. Confederate flags have been taken down. Monuments, statues and memorials, which once honored acts of historical oppression, have been removed. African American museums have opened. Initiatives to help African Americans start and sustain businesses have been launched.

Ashley Cleveland brings flowers to the George Floyd mural on the corner of 800 South and 300 West in Salt Lake City on on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. May 25, 2024, marks the four-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

While some progress has been made since May of 2020, other efforts to heal our community and correct injustices have become so polarizing that it’s difficult to even talk about them without people getting upset. Examples are critical race theory, which developed in academia when George Floyd was still a child, and programs advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI.

It has been disheartening, to say the least, to see leaders of corporations and universities withdraw from DEI initiatives after raising their hands to say they stood with the African American community in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s murder.

The African American community cannot forget who stood with us and stayed with us after Floyd was murdered. We cannot forget those hoarse voices that shouted into the political vortex for justice. We cannot forget the eyewitnesses who held up cameras, recorded the murder and brought us the unedited version of what happened. We cannot forget Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, who will grow up without a father. We cannot forget former U.S. Rep. Karen Bass for her advocacy and leadership of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021.

There are a lot of events that will take precedence and keep stories about George Floyd out of the headlines this week, but we cannot forget how and why George Floyd died. Even though we may not want to remember, we cannot forget. We cannot forget that humanity was not created to be subjugated, trampled or crushed, but lifted, affirmed and respected. We cannot forget that we are not powerless, but rather powerful to create, advance and live the change we want to see.

The Rev. Theresa A. Dear is a national board member of the NAACP and a Deseret News contributor.