Bruce Springsteen on George Floyd protests: U.S. still ‘haunted’ by slavery

Bruce Springsteen reflected Wednesday on the protest movement erupting across the nation in the wake of Minneapolis man George Floyd’s death. He said, “We remain haunted, generation after generation, by our original sin of slavery.”

Springsteen made his comments on SiriusXM as part of his ongoing “Bruce Springsteen — From His Home to Yours” series on E Street Radio.

The songs he picked in the two-hour broadcast reflected his views on political protest and racial injustice.

He began with his own “41 Shots (American Skin),” which he wrote about the death of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo in a confrontation with the New York Police Department.

“Eight minutes,” Springsteen said. “That song is almost eight minutes long. That’s how long it took George Floyd to die with a Minneapolis officer’s knee buried into his neck. That’s a long time. That’s how long he begged for help and said he couldn’t breathe. The arresting officer’s response was nothing but silence and weight. Then he had no pulse. And still it went on … May he rest in peace.”

“As we speak, 40 million people are unemployed,” Springsteen added. “100,000 plus citizens have died from COVID-19 with only the most tepid and unfeeling response from our White House. As of today, our black citizens continue to be killed unnecessarily by our police on the streets of America. As of this broadcast, the country is on fire and in chaos.”

Springsteen also played recordings of Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Burnin’ and Lootin’,” Kanye West’s “Who Will Survive in America?” and three Bob Dylan tunes: “Political World,” “Blind Willie McTell” and “Murder Most Foul.”

“We remain haunted, generation after generation, by our original sin of slavery,” he said prior to “Blind Willie McTell.” “It remains the great unresolved issue of American society. The weight of its baggage gets heavier with each passing generation. As of this violent, chaotic week on the streets of America, there is no end in sight.”

Springsteen also played Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” “One of the darkest songs in the American canon,” Springsteen said. “The video of the death of George Floyd is a 21st-century visual lynching and ‘Strange Fruit’ was written about the lynchings of black Americans after the Reconstruction and into the 20th Century.”

‘As of this violent, chaotic week on the streets of America, there is no end in sight.’

A speech that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered to a Birmingham, Alabama, audience was also played during the set.

“We have not cared for our house very well,” Springsteen said. “There can be no standing peace without the justice owed to every American regardless of their race, color or creed. The events of the last week have once again proved that idea. We need systemic changes in our law enforcement departments and the political will of our national citizenry to once again move forward the kind of changes that will bring the ideals of the civil rights movement once again to life and into this moment.”

The last songs of the show were “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” by the United States Army Field Band Soldiers Chorus and “In My Hour of Darkness” by Gram Parsons.

“We have a choice between chaos or community, a spiritual, moral and democratic awakening or becoming a nation fallen to history as critical issues were refused or not addressed,” Springsteen said. “Is our American system flexible enough to make, without violence, the humane, fundamental changes necessary for a just society?”

“The American story, our story, is in our hands and may God bless us all,” he continued. “Stay safe. Stay well. Stay strong. Until we meet again, stay involved. And go in peace.”

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