VIOLA - When George Floyd’s life ended, he was lying on the ground, in handcuffs, with a police officer kneeling on his neck while George said repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”
For eight minutes and 46 seconds, as three other officers stood by and watched, Derek Chauvin, a member of the Minneapolis Police Department, pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck. Chauvin never moved his knee even after George stopped moving, even after George stopped saying, “I can’t breathe,” and even afterthe paramedics arrived.
My brother Jack used to pin me to the ground. He was a high school wrestler at the time and thought it was fun to grab his younger sister and practice his holds. It wasn’t fun for me. I hatedit. I would thrash violently, yell for my mom, and beg him to get off me, crying “Uncle!” Unclewas the code word in our house for enough!
But George’s mom wasn’t there to intervene, it wasn’t a game, and the police officers weren't teenage wrestlers. They were trained professionals sworn to protect people.
Watch the video. George Floyd was murdered, plain and simple.
However, there is nothing plain and simple about being Black, and never has been throughout this country’s history.
As a white woman, I’ll probably never know what it feels like to be afraid for my life just from going about my everyday routines. Yet, it’s a reality Black people in this country wake up to every day.
My brother’s stupidity and meanness, when he was younger, were just a game to him, a sick game. Black people fearing for their lives whenever they’re pulled over while driving, or stopped when out walking, isn’t a game. Black people are dying at an alarming rate at the hands of the people who should be protecting them. And they can’t just cry ‘Uncle’ and be set free.
Trayvon Martin, Jamar Clark, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Jamel Floyd, Philando Castile, and too many others to list have died from excessive police force in the past decade.
Jamar Clark was pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer in 2015, who then shot him to death.
In a suburban community outside of Minneapolis in 2016, Philando Castile was shot dead by a Minnesota police officer while sitting in his car.
In March 2020, Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers while she lay in her bed. There were eight bullets holes in her body.
I can’t know how George Floyd felt. None of us can. But we can try. We can try to understand what it must feel like to be Black in this country, to worry that we may be shot for going out for a run, for sitting in our car, or for lying in our own bed.
Until we listen, until we try to comprehend how Black people feel, until we take a stand and become allies for Black people, we are all just as guilty of inaction as the three police officers who watched as George was killed.
George didn’t cry ‘Uncle’ as he was being murdered—it obviously wouldn’t have helped—but he cried out for his mama, who had been dead for over two years and couldn’t come to save her son.
Enough is enough. No more killing. All lives matter onlywhen we truly acknowledge that Black lives matter.