These three words will forever be linked to the horrific and excruciating deaths of George Floyd and Eric Garner. Yet, they have a greater significance when viewed through the lens of the Black struggle in America.
Black people in America have not been allowed to breathe for decades. And it’s indicative of how easy it is to become complacent and to accept that the reality we know is the only reality that there can be. We can get used to “not breathing” if we exist within a system that has systemically placed a knee on our necks and socialized us to think that this is the only possible scenario in which we can survive. We are underserved when it comes to financial institutions, economic opportunities, salary equality, job placement, healthcare, even basic things like the type of grocery available in black neighborhoods.
The frustration and anger of everyone who has taken to the street must be amplified on every online forum where we have a voice. Silence is complicity and we must scream until we are heard. Outside of justice for George, what do we want? The prosecution and punishment of the officers involved is a finite and shallow victory. We need sweeping reforms throughout police departments around this country. Chauvin who snuffed the life of George Floyd had 18 complaints on his file. At what point does the department say, this is one too many. Pending an investigation, you are now a liability to the safety of our citizens? Do they need to implement MANDATORY sensitivity training on race relations for the police? What do we want??? When the fires have been extinguished and the perpetrators of this crime punished what will we have achieved? We must have a clear purpose or the passion of the people who have taken to the streets will be ineffective.
And for every black person who feels this doesn’t apply to them because they could not be a George Floyd. Shame on you! I am George Floyd. Your son is George Floyd. Every BLACK person in your family is George Floyd. And if you don’t speak up now you are as complicit as the animal who snuffed the life of George Floyd.
Any white person out there who thinks it’s only the black people who are criminals get abused. Think again. Racism is real, it is alive and don’t think that the nice, decent black people you know are exempt. Racism only sees color and if you are a white person who doesn’t understand this and speak out against it then you are complicit. Stop counting how many “black friends” you have and patting yourself on the back for it. consider if you’d like to get up tomorrow morning and be treated like a black person in America. If your answer is no, ask yourself why and try to be part of the movement that changes the answer.
I don’t pretend to have the answers. I just know that now while we have the attention of the world we must think carefully about what we want to see. Clearly we will not change the attitude of racists overnight. We may drive them underground but like every evil, it will seethe and fester to re-emerge at a later date. What we can change are the laws that govern their behavior. Until they realize that there is NO PLACE in this nation for racism. Until we speak with one voice to decry hate, intolerance, and bigotry. Until our lawmakers agree to punish systemic racism in all its forms we will see no real change.
And yes I’m going to say it. It begins with changing the person in the White House who continues to make inflammatory and divisive remarks. He will go down in history as being the most divisive president in the history of this country. He has done more to empower the white supremacist movement than the KuKluxKlan recruiters. And instead of leading when we need a leader most, he ran to the bunker to hide like the bullying coward he is. What a disgrace!
We can start the change by voting through any available system. Whether by mail. Or in person while social distancing.
Until there is real change in this country no black person will be able to breathe.
In the midst of all this, we’ve still seen moments of hope and humanity. Like the officers in Florida and NY. Taking a knee to show protestors that they understand and stand with them. I choose to believe that there is more good than evil among us. Our biggest crime is complacency and I hope that we have all been shaken awake.