I woke up Tuesday morning and had no clue who George Floyd was. But, I heard him crying out, “Mama!” as he lay on the ground dying in my dream that night.
That morning I had no idea what awaited me — I did what I have done every morning since I can remember. I rolled over and thanked God for allowing me to see another day and reached for my phone to start my day by responding to dozens of emails.
Scrolling through my notifications, I noticed a friend of mine had posted a video with an angry reaction. Out of curiosity, I began to watch not knowing how a scene I had seen far too many times, a black man in handcuffs after committing some petty crime and onlookers conflicted as to whether or not they should intervene and face the same fate. I did not expect to watch the final moments of George Floyd’s life.
I don’t usually watch videos depicting police brutality because they have started to produce a type of trauma that makes being black in public feel like a death sentence. After seeing black men killed just for existing, it’s hard to think of a place where we are entirely safe except for in our homes. Even at home, “no-know” warrants put our lives at risk. Our very existence is criminalized, brutalized, and over-policed. Systemic racism, white supremacy, and police brutality seek to knock black men off of our throne from birth.
Black men make up the minority of America’s population but overpopulate jails and prisons. The same is true for schools, where you’d be hard-pressed to find more than one of us in most classrooms, yet we face significant disproportionality in discipline. It’s almost as if this country has assigned us to a status in life from birth and track us for prison labor or death when we don’t comply or conform — the new and pervasive form of slavery.
For AT LEAST 7 minutes and 54 seconds, an officer crushed #GeorgeFloyd‘s neck and throat with his knee as he laid on the ground handcuffed.
He laid there, unable to move, restrained pleading for his life. “I can’t breathe!” “My stomach hurts!” “Mama!” he screamed in agony.
The hubris-inspired ego of unchecked authority backed by a gun and badge disregarded, devalued, and stole the life of my brother.
I’m in no mood to play politics as usual — between this pandemic and police brutality, there is little room to debate the change this country, our schools, and our communities need. It’s easier now more than ever to choose right from wrong. It’s simple, Black people ought to be treated with the same dignity and respect that everyone else demands. This country never intended for people of color, especially black people, to have access to the inalienable rights it proclaims are free to all men — that is evidenced by the reactions we faced while merely trying to secure civil rights. Dr. King was not marching for Black superiority, but the lowest hanging fruit that had been denied to Black people since 1619 on this land, the dignity of truly being free.
Until people in power and privilege look upon the suffering of black bodies, dying in the street at the hands of police brutality, systemic racism, and white supremacy, nothing will change. Black people have been doing our part, but we are tired now and growing angrier and angrier as justice seems more and more out of reach.
What I have come to learn is that white supremacy is rooted in the idea, the lie, that every other race is inferior. This lie has given privilege to those who do not deserve it. On its face, that sense of supremacy is rooted in inferiority. If whiteness were truly supreme, why has it not been able to stand on its own be such without having to rely upon the power of racism to subjugate people of color?
Don’t tell me that all lives matter if you can watch a man be robbed of his dignity and see no wrong. Every officer who stood by and watched is complicit. Every American who has sought to learn more about any incident before deciding whether or not an unarmed black man deserved to die is complicit. Every media outlet that searched to find mugshots or dig up dirt from the past to make sense of what might have led to a violent police reaction has blood on their hands. Even every well-meaning white person who does not use their privilege to speak truth to power on and demand change is culpable.
As you watch the civil unrest in Minnesota, remember that fire cannot burn in every environment. The right conditions and material substances have to be present for a flame to burn. More so, something has to accelerate or ignite (spark) the flame. We cannot condemn the act of rioting or looting and be silent about the symptoms, conditions, substances that sparked the fire in the first place. Systemic racism, poverty, and police brutality were the substances — the murder of #GeorgeFloyd was the spark.
To reduce a grown-ass black man to cry out for his mother is beyond cruel, it’s evil. George Floyd’s death was a punishment that in no way matched his alleged crime, forgery, or check fraud. The officers who took part in this lynching being arrested is a start. Still, if this tragedy does not lead to arrests and convictions, then the erasure of George’s life is proof of the fact that America’s idea of liberty and justice for all is just meant for a few. America has to change, whether by power seeing the light or by feeling the fire. Enough is enough!