Please Don’t Tell Us How to Feel About George Floyd

Our mourning and protests are about so much more than one man.

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Eme Free Thinker’s George Floyd mural in Berlin (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

https://play.ht/articles/07c69b8b-e0b7-49e3-9550-5437cdb2dc17

People can become frustratingly obtuse when they’re trying to convince the world — and themselves — that they are good. For some defensive White people, trying to reassert their personal valor and that of their race has become a full-time mission.

They sneer and deny deny deny: Systemic racism and White privilege can’t possibly be a thing because what would that say about them?

Denying it in the face of so much evidence to the contrary only makes them look worse. But desperate times call for desperate measures and the measures seem to be getting more desperate every day.

I keep coming across comments and social media posts in which White people bring up the senseless murder of a White person by a cop or the senseless murder of a White person by a Black person and ask: Why haven’t those victims been an ongoing part of the 24-hour news cycle? Where are their televised funerals?

If White people were being systematically eliminated by Blacks in positions of power and one nearly nine-minute murder was caught on camera, that victim would become the symbol of a cause as decisively as Matthew Shepard became one for LGBTQ victims of hate crimes when he was beaten to death by two men in 1998.

Countless murders happen every day around the world, and the media don’t acknowledge even a fraction of them. But the killing of George Floyd wasn’t just another murder. It was a murder caught on camera in all its horrific gory, on the same day a White woman in Central Park went “viral” after she called the police on “an African American man … threatening myself and my dog,” an African American man who had politely asked her to leash her pet and had begun filming her abusive reaction on his mobile phone.

If the police had arrived on the scene and immediately started shooting at the Black birdwatcher while someone caught it all on camera, he might be the Black being hailed as a hero today. Floyd, though, ended up with that unfortunate distinction. He became the latest in a long string of unarmed Black people killed by White police, making him ripe for status as a symbol of the racial chaos that has defined the United States from the very beginning. That the world was in lockdown at the time due to a global pandemic meant that when the video went viral, we couldn’t just look away.

A breaking point

The outrage over the murder of Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis is not merely about a White person killing a Black person. It represents a breaking point. It’s our refusal to continue living under a system in which Whites in positions of power and authority use their mandates to maintain the law and uphold order to kill Black people and then almost always get away with it.

So what if Floyd is not technically a hero? Neither was Matthew Shepard. They are symbols of a broken society in which people in certain minority groups routinely become human targets because of who they are, not what they’ve done.

To White people who want to sweep George Floyd’s murder under the proverbial rug: Stop. Look. Listen. You can hide the permanent stain by covering it up. Not anymore. We see you.

Regardless of whether Floyd was drunk, or on drugs, or committing a crime, or resisting arrest, he was handcuffed and pinned onto the ground by a knee in his neck when he died. Derek Chauvin held that position for eight minutes and 46 seconds (or 7:46, depending on your source) as three other cops looked on and did nothing but stop onlookers from intervening.

Was Floyd threatening Chauvin’s life during those nearly nine minutes? What about after he lost consciousness and Chauvin held his position? Anyone who thinks that was necessary force slept through the video.

If Floyd had been white, they wouldn’t be blaming him. His being Black has sparked such outrage among us because this scenario happens over and over in America. I wouldn’t be surprised if the four cops responsible for the death of Floyd get off with a slap on the wrist. Cops who kill unarmed Black people usually do.

If Floyd had been White and his death had inspired commensurate outrage, the White people who are complaining about our outrage and/or trying to rationalize the actions of Derek Chauvin wouldn’t be putting the White victim of police brutality on trial post-mortem.

Saying George Floyd asked for it or that we shouldn’t be angry because sometimes Black people kill White people or sometimes Black people kill other Black people is like saying rape isn’t a big deal because women commit crimes — sometimes heinous ones. Sometimes they dress sexily and flirt. Do women who do both deserve to be sexually harassed at work or, worse, brutally raped? Victim-blaming is as shameful when applied to the Black victims of excessive police force.

A plea to a broken system

So please, stop trying to make Black Lives Matter about something it’s not. Stop trying to turn the tables on us by reminding us that Black people commit crimes. “Justice for George Floyd/Breonna Taylor/Ahmaud Arbery/Trayvon Martin/Michael Brown/Tamir Rice/Walter Scott/Alton Sterling/Philando Castle/Stephon Clark” is a plea to a system that has historically undervalued Black life, a system in which Whites have been slaughtering Blacks for centuries with little to no ramifications.

We are demanding that the White people who watch movies about period racism thinking it’s so removed from the present day wake up and face the nightmare Blacks in America have been living since our ancestors arrived here from Africa in chains.

It’s a tragedy when anyone is killed. It’s a tragedy when anyone dies. Black Lives Matter isn’t saying Black lives matter more than anyone else’s. It’s a reminder that Black lives matter too, because non-Black people often seem to forget. BLM is our not-so-gentle nudge: It’s not just about you.

To White people who want to sweep George Floyd’s murder under the proverbial rug: Stop. Look. Listen. You can’t hide the permanent stain by covering it up. Not anymore. We see you.

For the first time in American history, White people aren’t completely controlling the narrative. Welcome to life as we know it. Some of you can’t handle it because you’ve never had to. That is what we are talking about when we talk about White entitlement and White privilege.

Hollywood movies like to present racism as a thing of the past, an ancient artifact White people can “tsk tsk” from a safe distance. It’s why some of you can’t see the murder of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter for what they are. Black people didn’t wake up on May 26 and arbitrarily choose Floyd as their new hero. They didn’t decide their lives matter more most. That’s how White people think.

We are demanding that the White people who watch movies about period racism thinking it’s so removed from the present day wake up and face the nightmare Blacks in America have been living since our ancestors arrived here from Africa in chains.

It plays on a continuous loop and the volume turns up every time an Ahmaud Arbery, a Breonna Taylor, or a George Floyd loses their life because they were born Black targets. Be thankful for the White privilege of being able to change the channel and pretend everything is fine. Enjoy it while you can because just as #MeToo brought about days of reckoning for men who abuse their positions of power, time’s up for you, too.

Written by

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj

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