There is a video circulating on social media of a beautiful little girl, her smiling face aglow in pride, proclaiming “Daddy changed the world.”

It is both uplifting and heart-breaking. The little girl is at one of the protests that have become commonplace since her father’s murder at the hands of police officers.

George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter Gianna has a child’s limited understanding not only of the pent-up anger unleashed by her father’s murder but also of the finality of death. She has not experienced all the repercussions of having lost a parent so early in life.

But she hears her father’s name on TV and sees that crowds have taken to the streets to call for a sea change in the way that people who look like her are treated.

She deserves this moment of pride. She deserves equity, justice and more.

The protests, of course, are about more than the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor or even police brutality. And it is no coincidence that this explosion of marches has come during the throes of a pandemic that has disproportionately taken the lives of people of color.

COVID-19 has laid bare an ugly American reality — that the socio-economic differences falling largely along racial and ethnic lines are not simply a quality-of-life matter. They are a matter of life and death.

Centuries of laws, policies and practices that have privileged whites and oppressed people of color have created and maintained a system of structural racism. The disparities people of color experience begin before they are born and follow them unto death.

They are evident in the enormous income and wealth gaps, in access to high-quality education and even in life spans between whites and people of color.

But how does a nation begin to dismantle a 400-year-old system of oppression? We can start by demilitarizing our police and reinvesting a meaningful portion of our police budgets into our communities.

We must overhaul our criminal justice system, implement “8 Can’t Wait” policing reform, release those serving sentences for non-violent drug offenses and offer, instead, treatment, education, employment and reparations. And we must ensure that health care is available to all.

Here in New Mexico, we can start by ensuring that every bill the Legislature considers — from budgets to criminal codes — has been analyzed for disparate impacts by race, ethnicity and gender. And New Mexico must invest in the early childhood care, education and health programs that create opportunity for all children and especially our children of color.

Like all great social upheaval, change will not occur until it is demanded. That means getting angry.

It means protesting peacefully. And most of all, it means voting. Voting for candidates committed to dismantling structural racism in all our institutions.

George Floyd’s death may well change the world. But only if we all — people of every race, ethnicity and color — demand it.

We cannot allow George Floyd’s life, and the lives of others who have met the same fate, to have been lost in vain.

(Kenneth J. Martinez holds a doctorate of psychology and is chairman of the board of directors of New Mexico Voices for Children.)