The last moments of George Floyd’s life were spent on a Minneapolis street with an officer’s knee in his neck. I’m conflicted by the large outpouring of support for George Floyd who was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd’s death was wrong, uncalled for, and unjust, but, wasn’t Amaud Arbery‘s death was the same? With coverage of the Coronavirus crisis eclipsing most other national news stories, many Americans remain unaware of the wrongful death of Louisville EMT, Breyonna Taylor.
It’s unsettling to think that even in a global pandemic, black Americans still face the threat of police brutality and murder. It’s chic for non-blacks to be outraged and so easy to jump on this bandwagon because everyone saw the injustice! The police serve to hold citizens accountable when they break the law, even unintentionally. But, who will hold law enforcement accountable when they do wrong, even unintentionally?
This problem doesn’t end with George Floyd’s death. It didn’t end with Philando Castile who was also murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. Philando Castile was a law-abiding, card-carrying member of the NRA who was shot, seconds after lawfully mentioning that he carried a weapon. Atatiana Jefferson was killed in her home, but her death was only the first of many in her family. Following her death, her father Marquis, and her mother (whom she cared for at the time she was killed) Yolanda Carr also passed away shortly thereafter. The toll on families is perhaps even a greater tragedy than the actual injustice.
Americans all over the country are outraged, and rightfully so. For many, this is the first time police brutality has grabbed their attention. They’re faced with the reality they have denied for so long but now, they get it. Cynical non-black Americans may finally be ready to harmoniously join what they have reviled as cacophony, the cries of black Americans who just want a chance to be seen. Black Americans want to be seen not as a threat or perpetrator, but as citizens deserving of the inalienable rights provided in the Constitution. For those whose anger will subside with the onset of a new news cycle, this is a great time for you to have a long look at the person staring back at you in the mirror.
That feeling in the pit of your gut? That’s the inconvenience of going forward with this same outrage. Black Americans live with it, every day! The trauma of chattel slavery, segregation, redlining, Black Wall Street, Jim Crow era violence perpetrated against our forefathers, and the murders of agents of change like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers is in the DNA of black Americans and is passed down to each generation. We don’t get to stop making noise nor can we afford to take days off from being vigilant about where we go, how we maneuver through stores, restaurants, and other places of business. We just want to live, but we’re tired.
It seems to always happen with our non-black friends who start to weigh and second-guess their posts on social media and never even stop to think how safe their non-black sons and adult men are during traffic stops and other police interaction. Because non-blackness is seen as an asset and not a liability, soon, you too may feel it irrational to keep this conversation alive in your circle of influence. You’ll feel silly for thinking about it, and you may even feel threatened for speaking up. Either way and if but for only a moment, you have felt the weight of blackness this week.
Thank you for carrying it this week, but do you intend to carry it once this news cycle ends? The weight of blackness is not ultimately carried by black Americans, alone. It’s carried by those that see the problem and are willing to say, “he ain’t heavy…” you know the rest. This challenge is to all our brother’s keepers currently and conveniently riding today’s wave of outrage.
The fact that we carry the weight of blackness well doesn’t negate the fact that it’s heavy. Say the names of these martyrs to people that refuse to hear them. Speak their names and tell their stories with empathy and not disdain. As we again find ourselves at this impasse, we must choose to cross over together. This means that non-black Americans must help lift black-American perception and possibility across the bridge to a better tomorrow in hopes of finally making this country as great as it purports itself to be.