I have not watched the video of George Floyd’s murder and I will not. I cannot bring myself to watch it. Because I know once I see it; I cannot unsee it. This murder would live with me forever and this is a price I am afraid to pay. Things stay with me a lot longer than other people. I dream about it and it affects me in ways I cannot begin to describe. The photos and recounts of the 8 minutes and 46 seconds when sheer evil, inhumanity and utter cruelty were on full display were enough to send me into a week-long bawling session. Even now as I write this piece, I still struggle with keeping the tears at bay. I bawled for days as if I knew him – George Floyd. He was not the first BLACK man to be murdered by the police. He was not the first the BLACK man whose murder was captured on video. So, what about George Floyd’s murder, that elicited such an intense response from me. I bawled every time I thought about him for the first week and when I was not bawling, I was furious. But what about this murder, what about this loss? Well I have a few reasons I was so greatly impacted by his murder. I also want to share with you what it means to be an ally now and in the future.
George Floyd’s murder shows the glaring truth that Black lives don’t matter. Was his life worth so little? Why are our lives worth so little? Was it so easy for his life to be taken? Why was it so easy for this police officer; who is meant to serve and protect; take a life? Why did others stand around and watch this happen? These and other questions haunt me daily as I navigate this world as a BLACK woman.
Black people are treated as disposable, replaceable, less than equal, something to be feared, we are dangerous, and we need to be policed and contained.
This is the prevailing sentiment that permeates every single aspect of life. If you examine the justice system, the education system, housing, health, employment you can see that the welfare of BLACK people was never truly considered. Why is there a pipeline to prison? Why are Black men and women still incarcerated for minor charges related to a “drug” that people (especially white) are making millions of dollars from. These inequities and many others are the reason this man felt emboldened to kneel on a Black man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
This murder shook me to my core because other men stood and watched this happen. George Floyd was restrained; he was no threat. But this is not true, is it? George Floyd carried a weapon, his skin. For centuries, our blackness has been weaponized, and it continues to be weaponized! We are portrayed as thugs, deadbeats, loud, ghetto, angry, unintelligent. Our bodies are sexualized and overly sexualized; we are seen as vulgar. We are policed every time we enter a store; a white woman clutches her purse when a black man steps into the elevator with her; guns are drawn when the police pulls over a car and the passengers are black. Every time a black man and woman is murdered by the police; the victim goes on trial. So what if George Floyd has a past? So what? Is he not worthy? Did he not deserve to live and have his day in court?
I was impacted by this murder because this man knew he was going to die and was powerless to stop it. He felt his life leaving his body and there was nothing he could do. We seldom think about death because we are too busy living. Our mortality is only acknowledged when it is threatened. George Floyd pleaded for his life, he told the officer he was dying and that despicable man was not moved…he was not bothered that he was taking a life; he stayed on George’s neck; much like white oppression has been on our necks for centuries and present day! I can only imagine how alone George must have felt in those final and terrifying moments; so alone he called for his mother who had left this earth before him. That is the part of the story that breaks my heart! He cried for his dead mother! He cried for her; because in the moment she could bring him peace and comfort like only a mother could. Mother represents solace and peace. My heart bleeds for this man. He did not have to die; he did not deserve to die. Our black skin does not make us less than any other human being. Our black skin makes us different not less than. We deserve to take up space in this world. We deserve to enjoy the same rights and freedoms that every other human being enjoys.
Our black skin is not a license to treat us like we do not matter.
We played witness to this man’s murder and we were expected to carry on as normal. For those of us who are still employed we were and still are expected to show up to work and carry on as normal. We are expected to quietly deal with our pain and get over it. For years we have been told to get over it! How do you get over constant trauma. Every time another BLACK man is killed in the streets how do you just get over that. Every time another BLACK woman is shot dead and nothing comes of her murder; how do you carry on with your life unchanged? We cannot unsee the evil and inhumanity that was on full display.
These killings must stop and the road to this cessation is a long and hard one. This is a marathon like no other. Dismantling every facet of this racist system will not happen overnight. With the surge of riots and protests, white people are declaring themselves as allies to the cause but what does it mean to be an ally? Let me declare here and now that your desire to learn about the Black experience should not become the burden of BLACK people. It is your responsibility to educate yourself before you engage with us. Allyship is not performative and it is definitely not pandering to us!! Do not center yourselves in the conversation. For years our cries and pleas fell on your hardened ears; now that you wish to listen; actually listen! Sit with yourselves and question how you have used your privilege. What are the perks you have enjoyed and continue to enjoy as a white person? How have you used your privilege to perpetuate racism and inequality? Are you willing to give up this privilege? Are you willing to share your privilege and once and for all level the playing field?
If true and lasting change is to happen white people, especially, must confront the conscious and unconscious bias that lives within. Really examine the ways you see and think about black people and then ask yourself if you could survive being treated that way! You want to be an ally; then be one! Don’t look to us to label you as an ally. Do the work; not because you seek validation that you are a good white person. Do it because you are a good human being!
It is not enough to take to the streets and march with a placard! Put your money where your mouth is! I offer a few thought starters as you seek ways to demonstrate allyship. You can support black businesses by spending your money with us and promoting our businesses. Donate to organizations that are really designed to help the black community especially in the areas of entrepreneurship and business. Hire more blacks in your organizations/companies and really give us the space to contribute! Support black start ups! Fund incubators for black entrepreneurs. Donate to black run VCs and Angel Investor organizations. Provide mentorship especially to young black professionals and create room for us to be, to grow and to excell.
All we have ever wanted and asked for; is to be equal. All we really want is for the rest of the world to acknowledge our humanity. We have dreams, goals and ambitions like everyone else. Our desire to exist should not be an affront to your own existence. Saying BLACK LIVES MATTER does not mean all lives do not matter. So as you begin to educate yourselves; as you being to initiate conversations about allyship; as you engage with your black friends and colleagues, as your raise your hand to say how can I help; remember the road to equality is marathon not a sprint.