I wish I wasn’t writing this piece, but was compelled to do so. I’m sick and tired of being a young black man always watching my back out of fear for incidents like this, where George Floyd had a knee on his neck for 8 minutes, as if he was a dog and not human.
On May 25, 2020, a Minneapolis store clerk at the Cup Foods convenience store called the police over what they believed was a counterfeit $20 bill handed to them by Floyd.
Store workers went to speak with Floyd and his two acquaintances as they sat in a blue Mercedes until the cops arrived at 8:08 P.M. The cops walked into the store first, then met Floyd in his Mercedes at 8:09 P.M.
Two officers spoke with Floyd, then pulled him out of the car. Floyd didn’t resist being cuffed, sitting on the ground as his acquaintances were being questioned by authorities.
At 8:14 P.M., a second cop car emerges as the original cops take Floyd across the street near the corner store. He falls to the ground, getting stood back up as the second group of cops go to the Mercedes to watch Floyd’s acquaintances.
At 8:17 P.M., a third cop car, under the supervision of officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao, emerges as the four original officers move Floyd from the driver’s side of the squad car to the passenger side. He is then brutally forced to the ground. 17-year-old Darnella Frazier recorded and posted the next 8 minutes so the globe could witness his last breaths. Between his wails and grunts, you can hear Floyd saying, “I can’t breathe, officer” and “They’re going to kill me”.
Five minutes into this disheartening viral video, onlookers try to step in and help Floyd, who is now unconscious, only to be threatened with mace by Chauvin and Thao, keeping all citizens back as life flees from Floyd’s body.
It was there, on the corner of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, that this man was murdered. Not passing away, not dying, but murdered.
It was on this corner that the humanity and respect for Floyd’s body as a black man in America held no value, respect or worth in the eyes of Chauvin.
It was on this corner where the boiling point on the issue of police brutality spilt over.
The rise to fiery riots was not immediate, but understandable, considering the terrible treatment black people still go through everyday in the supposed land of freedom, equality and opportunity for all.
Time and time again, as recently as this past April and May, white people face no consequences for protesting with guns, knives and vests over haircuts and foot massages in the middle of a global pandemic in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona. Why aren’t they being arrested and facing subjective treatment from officers when they scream literally inches away from their faces? Why do police officers stay calm or even back away from white protestors, instead telling them to calm down, pleading for them not to get arrested or hurt?
I could never imagine a photo or video of black people expressing their anger in this manner with officers casually continuing to minding their business.
Instead, when black people break social distancing guidelines to protest, officers slam them onto the ground and into cars to make an arrest, showing no hesitation to cuff or hurt a person of color.
When black people peacefully protest Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, they have tear gas thrown at them and rubber bullets shot at them. Even when they try to recover from this, they are allegedly denied fair treatment at a local Target which supports local officers.
When we protest and riot over the same things white people do , Trump tweets that white people are “good people, but they are angry” and black people are “THUGS” dishonoring the memory of George Floyd”.
Constant restrictions of black people’s human rights made their sadness transform into anger and frustration, as they are still living in a country built on and thriving off of 400 years of hatred, racism and enslavement.
Black people have the right to be mad living in these conditions, still being treated like second-class citizens in 2020.
Violence has been inflicted on African-Americans since the creation of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, where some slaves were thrown into the ocean and drowned to make the cargo ships lighter.
Even after separating families at slave auctions and years of being considered 3/5ths of a person, it took African-Americans being beaten to death, jailed and blackballed without raising a finger to white people in the Civil Rights movement just to be equal under law. Still, hatred persisted, as MLK was assassinated as a peaceful leader.
Even ignoring overt white supremacist practices that still exist todaysuch as blackface, the KKK, and Neo-Nazis, there are a ton of ways racism is covertly practiced in the United States. No one seems to see anything wrong with things like the economic segregation of communities promoting the school-to-prison pipeline, practicing cultural appropriation or undermining the struggles black people face everyday.
If you have been reading this piece so far and still believe that racism doesn’t exist or it’s okay to not see color, you are either blind or willfully ignorant to what many people of color go through every day, as your privilege is too great to step down from.
I shouldn’t have to see black fathers training their sons on how to breath if an officer puts a knee to their necks on social media.
I shouldn’t have to be told by my mother and father to “Just do what the officer says, I’d rather have you alive and not in a body bag.”
I shouldn’t have to be scolded by my elders for walking with a hoodie on or putting my hands in my pockets because I might make others afraid.
I shouldn’t have the feeling of walking with a target on my back every day I leave home as a young black man, knowing I could be the next George Floyd any day.
Everyone is entitled to their own feelings or thoughts, but everyone is also entitled to equal human rights and treatment in this country. Floyd was denied that, one of many black lives lost in these past several years to police brutality.
I can no longer be silent. I, along with many others, cannot let the status quo and hegemony of America oppress us from equal opportunities to liberty and freedom.
As the anger and chaos of the Minneapolis riots spread nationwide, individual agents incite destruction to distract from Floyd’s death, leaving black people to take the brunt of the blame for these situations.
It’s hard to tell how truthful stories of provocateurs destroying property potentially being undercover cops are, or whether to believe stories about white women faking being handicapped to stab black people. Nothing makes sense, adding fuel to the fire of this now chaotic, unfortunate situation.
The only thing that will solve this situation is learning how to love one another and being active in bringing forth change.
In loving one another, we must be aware of all of the struggles each of us go through, have the empathy to feel pain someone else has endured and recognize our own privileges and how it could potentially change the outcome of certain situations.
White people need to recognize the many privileges they have to be born with this skin color in America. When facing adversity, they need to speak up and support others who do not have the same privileges/advantages that they do. Silence only helps the oppressor.
Change must also be brought on by taking on the responsibility of good citizenship and realizing the power we all have in voting to change legislation in government. Voting is key to solving many long-term problems people of color have to face every day, but it is vital for all of us to realize that our voices matter and can bring change into the government.
Scientific studies report that minorities will demographically make up the majority of the population by 2050. Resistance to these demographic changes can’t be seen with hatred, jealousy or fear, as it will only continue the violent, bloody cycle this country runs off of.
In writing this piece, I do not hold hatred towards all white people or police officers. It is unfortunately the actions of a few people in these groups that further bring division to this country, basing their choices on who should receive equal treatment on race alone when that is unacceptable.
However, we live in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, and as long as rules are being made by people in power who are silent on these injustices, they are a part of the problem.
There is a reason why black people and white people were literally getting killed and imprisoned in the Freedom Summer movements. White America knew that our votes held the power to change society, facing heavy backlash as politicians prevented black people from voting in this period and centuries past by beating, arresting and discriminating against them at the polls.
This isn’t Freedom Summer anymore. It’s 2020. Until we all start to vote in our local, country, state and national elections, nothing will change unless it’s through fire and flames.
Love will always win, never hate. Rest in power, George Floyd. #BlackLivesMatter.