In the aftermath, that is again racism unmasked in our country, pain, anger, and sorrow – culminating in outrage threaten to swallow us . The death of George Floyd has sparked years of collective pain as we (the American public) have watched it unfold in our own psyches and in communities across our country. There are no words I can write that will capture the depth of pain that is felt. Mr. Floyd’s death is as senseless and cruel as the racism it was born of.
In truth the abuse and blatant permissiveness and dismissiveness around the marginalization, mistreatment, and deaths of African American citizens is not new. But, it has seemingly found new permissiveness (in our current political climate) and growing awareness through public documentation.
George Floyd (who is described as a gentle giant by his family) lost his life on May 25th, 2020 in Minneapolis Minnesota, as officers held him to the ground in a non-resisted arrest. His death follows the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery who was killed on February 23, 2020 in Brunswick Georgia, and Breonna Taylor on March 13th, 2020 in Louisville Kentucky. Mr. Arbery was killed while jogging in his own community by two armed men (father and son) who have used various explanations to justify their unjustifiable actions. Ms. Taylor, was killed in her own home, when non-uniformed officers mistook her home for a residence suspected of selling controlled substances. It is now known that residence was more than 10 miles away.
We (the American Public) are only aware of deaths that make our national headlines. But, there are many more. Of deeper upset, in our country’s history, even when there is a public outcry a seeming return to non-awareness (in the midst of knowing) ensues. Senseless losses, hate filled enough to hit our public radar, have included the deaths of Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin. These are individuals that died all across our country and that should hold pain, with opportunity to make change, for all of us.
Walter Scott was shot and killed by a law enforcement officer on April, 4, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The fatal shooting occurred during a routine traffic stop. Freddie Gray died in police custody on April 12, 2015 in Baltimore Maryland. Eric Garner died after being fatally choked by a NYPD officer on July 17th, 2014. Tamir Rice, only 12 years of age, was shot and killed by law enforcement when the officer mistook Tamir’s toy gun for a real weapon on November 23, of 2014. And, Trayvon Martin, 17 years old, was fatally shot on February 26, 1995 when walking through a residential neighborhood in Sanford Florida. In truth African American deaths have been documented since the death of, 14 year old, Emmett Till in Money Mississippi. Emmett Till’s death occurred in August of 1955.
In December of 2015, The Guardian ran a news story entitled Young Black Men Killed by U.S. Police at highest rate in year of 1,134 deaths. This story documented the deaths of African American men during the year of 2015. It was noted that African American men between the ages of 15 and 34 (at that time) made up only 2% of the population but comprised more than 15% of deaths (at the hands of law enforcement) during that year alone. It was further reported that “one in. every 65 deaths of young African American men in the U.S. is a killing by police”.
Here we are again (or still) in 2020. Emmett Till senselessly died in 1955 for reportedly “whistling” at a white female. His death, fueled by anger, pain, and outrage, fueled the civil rights movement. A beginning! Sixty -five years later George Floyd’s senseless murder painfully digs into that same vein of anger, pain, and outrage. Peaceful protests, turned non peaceful, have sprung up all across our country. Citizens demanding change, public officials making statements and some working to reassure that justice for George Floyd will be served.
As of today (May 31, 2020) the officer who was identified as the aggressor has been arrested and charged with 3rd degree murder. The legal strategy is understood but the charge seems minimal in comparison to the life that has been lost. 3 additional officers are involved. While there is hope all will be held accountable, to the very highest extent possible, it is not enough. The brutality and oppression that has accompanied simply being African American has lasted far too long. Hundreds of years in the making; the fire that George Floyd’s death has ignited began with slavery-a first act of oppression-in 1619. Our Civil War and the Civil Rights movement (hundreds of years apart) have paved the road. But not abolished the inequality and generational harm.
Martin Luther King Jr. further uncovered, named, and brought to light the core of injustice that has plagued America’s African American citizens. He began this journey in the mid 1950’s and lost his life to this fight for equality in 1968. Today he is memorialized for his incredible strength and forward movement in civil rights, but still we are here today. We have a duty as American Citizen’s to not allow a return to non-awareness in the midst of knowing. Mr. Floyd’s death and the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and most certainly Emmett Till should not be in vain. If we (as a larger society and it’s citizen’s) continue on in our non-awareness once the outcry has settled- we are complicit. We know!
The feeling of helplessness that exist is profound and it can seem that change may never occur. In truth there are things we can do. Both large and small. Change won’t happen quickly, but it can happen with each citizen’s care for the other and enough determination and strength to do what is right. The Huffington Post recently ran an article entitled, 11 things we can do Besides say “This Has to Stop” In the Wake of Police Brutality.
The article recognizes, as Angela Davis, has so eloquently stated, “It is not enough to not be a racist-you need to be antiracist”. The Post has interviewed Black Community Activists and provides tangible directives on turning “empathy into action in the wake of police brutality”.
I will provide the listed action steps (directly from the article above) and trust if you want to learn more about what each step entails, and do your part in making our world a safer place by working to end brutality, you will visit the article and decide which commitments you will make.
- If you see an act of police brutality happening, speak up. Safely make your presence known.
- Educate yourself without placing the burden on black people to be your teachers.
- Lean into your courage and push aside your caution.
- Engage with racist people you know. And, engage with your silent non-Black friends, too.
- Call the District Attorney’s office and other local government officials. Then show up at town hall and city council meetings.
- Pay close attention to how your local police department functions.
- Take the fight to your workplace.
- Do more listening than talking. When your Black friends give you constructive feedback, welcome it.
- Don’t think your off the hook because your also a minority.
- Donate to anti-white supremacy work, such as your local Black Lives Matter chapter.
- Check your own behaviors of policing Black people in your daily life.
All of these are solid systematic and (if more of us than not do them) systemically impactful actions.
I want to share the following in the event you are able and want to provide support to organizations that work to end police brutality and/or inequality and gun violence. You may find campaigns entitled Justice for George Floyd, Justice for Ahmaud Arbery, Justice for Breonna Taylor and The Walter Scott Notification Act, for Police Transparency, Accountability, and Change Act at Change.org. In addition, fund raising pages which support the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Freddie Gray, are provided as are organizations in memorial of, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. In the event you are aware of additional resources please contact me and I will add them to this article or you may share them in the comments section of this writing.
George Floyd Memorial Fund (Go Fund Me): Memorial fund
The family of Mr. Floyd provided the following address in the event individuals may want to send support, cards, or letters.
The Estate of George Floyd: C/O Ben Crump Law, PLLC. 122 S. Calhoun St. Tallahassee, Fl 32301. Attention: Adner Marcelin
Scholarship and Unity Fund in Honor of Eric Garner: In support of families impacted by gun violence.
The Freddie Gray Fund: Family support and Memorial Fund.
The Trayvon Martin Foundation: A Non-Profit Organization for families who have lost a child to gun violence.
Tamir Rice Foundation: An after school growth and enrichment program for children, and police accountability Program.
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