A significant portion of the speakers featured during the first hour of the opening night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention focused on the topic of racism in the United States.
According to the convention’s host, actress Eva Longoria, the “ongoing systemic racial injustice” would be one of the three main topics during the first day of the convention.
One of the first major speakers, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, spoke in front of the “Black Lives Matter” plaza at the center of the nation’s capital.
“It was here that just weeks ago, Americans donned face masks, and safely and peacefully protested the death of George Floyd,” Bowser said, referencing the man whose death triggered a wave of protests and riots across the nation.
Without mentioning that at least 150 law enforcement officers were hurt by violent demonstrators in her city in May, Bowser criticized President Donald Trump for the law enforcement’s response to the violence.
“He sent troops in camouflage into our streets. He sent tear gas into the air and federal helicopters too,” Bowser said. “I knew if he did this to D.C., he would do it to your city or your town. And that’s when I said enough. I said enough for every black and brown American who has experienced injustice. Enough for every American who believes in justice.”
Bowser’s speech was followed by an address from Floyd’s younger brother Philonise Floyd who called for a brief moment of silence.
“People of all races, all ages, all genders, all backgrounds peacefully protesting in the name of love and unity—it’s a fitting legacy for our brother, but George should be alive today,” Philonise Floyd said. “For the names we do not know, the faces we’ll never see, those who can’t mourn because their murders didn’t go viral, please join me in a moment of silence to honor George and the many other souls we lost to hate and injustice.”
The moment of silence was followed by Leon Bridges’s performance of his single “Sweeter,” which he released after Floyd’s murder. Bridges previously told Billboard that he had written the song a year earlier and was disappointed to see the song represented “a perpetual narrative.”
Trump has condemned the killing of Floyd, calling it “terrible” and “disturbing.” All of four of the police officers involved in the arrest which led to Floyd’s death are now facing criminal charges.
Racism and COVID-19
Longoria, the host, and at least one other speaker connected the theme of racism to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to address the economic inequalities that this virus has exposed and worsened and we need to solve the testing and healthcare disparities that have led to people of color dying of COVID at higher rates than white people,” Longoria said.
The narrative that the United States is a racist country, while thin on evidence, has been a dominant theme in the campaign of Joe Biden—the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Following the moment of silence, the hosts played one of Biden’s campaign speeches with an echoing voice effect and dramatic music.
“The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism, to deal with the growing economic inequity that exists in our nation, to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation made to so many,” Biden said. “You know I’ve said from the outset of this election that we’re in the battle for the soul of this nation and we are in the battle for the soul of this nation.”