When I got home on Friday, I flipped CNN on and climbed in bed, planning to nap to refresh myself after a long drive. As I lay there waiting for the sleep to come, I caught up with what was taking place in our country while I was on the road. I eventually dozed off only to wake up and realize the rage that was being experienced in our country was growing and would probably be ongoing for a while. Rage triggered by a person entrusted with the honor of protecting and serving the people of his community. A person who, without so much as flinching, kept his knee in a black man’s neck despite that black man’s cries that he could not breathe. Rage that was triggered by a person entrusted with the honor of protecting and serving the people of his community who, without so much as flinching, kept his knee in a black man’s neck, despite the fact that black man was handcuffed and clearly no longer a threat if ever he was. Rage that was triggered by a person entrusted with the honor of protecting and serving the people of his community who, without so much as flinching, kept his knee in a black man’s neck, despite the fact that at some point that black man was completely unconscious. Rage triggered by a combination of fear and anger that Derek Chauvin, like so many others, would not be held accountable for murdering George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
8 MINUTES AND 46 SECONDS
8 minutes and 46 seconds. 8 minutes and 46 seconds is the amount of time that Derek Chauvin kept his knee, and the full weight of his body pressed down on George Floyd’s neck on May 25, 2020. 8 minutes and 46 seconds! Before you pass by that number and brush it off as minimal, I ask you to set a timer and sit still for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. You will then know just how long 8 minutes and 46 seconds is.
5 MINUTES AND 46 SECONDS
For the first 5 minutes and 46 seconds, sit quietly and try to imagine what it is like to struggle for breath. Try to imagine for 5 minutes and 46 seconds what it is like to have pure fear coursing through your veins. Try to imagine what it is like for 5 minutes and 46 seconds to wholeheartedly know that you are about to die on the street like a rabid dog as onlookers everywhere beg and plead for Derek Chauvin to spare your life. Try to imagine what it is like for 5 minutes and 46 seconds to be dying in the presence of so many onlookers that are too fearful to do anything more than record your murder and plead for some compassion. Try to imagine. Why 5 minutes and 46 seconds? Because that is the amount of time that Derek Chauvin kept the full weight of his body on George Floyd’s neck before George Floyd slipped into a state of unconsciousness. 5 minutes and 46 seconds is the amount of time that Derek Chauvin had to come to his senses and realize he was killing a man. 5 minutes and 46 seconds is the amount of time that Derek Chauvin listened to George Floyd cry out for help. 5 minutes and 46 seconds is the amount of time that Derek Chauvin listened to George Floyd beg for relief. 5 minutes and 46 seconds is the amount of time that Derek Chauvin and the other officers had George Floyd pinned to the ground, handcuffed and helpless, clearly no longer posing a threat, if ever he did.
As you sit quietly for the remaining 3 minutes that Derek Chauvin pressed the full weight of his body into George Floyd’s neck remind yourself over and over again that 3 minutes is the amount of time that George Floyd lay on the street in Minneapolis unresponsive. No more begging and pleading. No more crying out to his mother. No more rattling off the family members’ names that he wanted to know that he loved them. 3 minutes that George Floyd was unresponsive as Derek Chauvin continued to press the full weight of his body into George Floyd’s neck. Unresponsive as Derek Chauvin stared coolly into the eyes of onlookers, daring them to take any action that could possibly save George Floyd’s life. 3 minutes that let the world know that Derek Chauvin was a heartless, cold-blooded killer who had no regard whatsoever for the life of George Floyd, the 46-year-old “gentle giant”. 3 minutes that let the world know that Derek Chauvin did not think that George Floyd’s life had any value.
Watching that video for the first time rocked me to the core. I sat in shock as I processed what I just witnessed, wishing that I had ignored the video that my cousin shared with our family. But once I started watching, I could not turn away, and I knew no matter how much I tried, I would never be able to erase what I saw from my mind. As I tried to process what I just saw, all I could think about was Derek Chauvin’s cold and callous manner as he murdered a man in front of cameras for the world to see. I stared at his face, desperately hoping to see some hint of compassion. I stared at his face, desperately hoping to see some hint of concern. I stared at his face, desperately hoping, at the very least, to see some hint of fear of consequences. I saw nothing. Wanting to believe I had missed it, I looked at the video a second and third time completely focused on Derek Chauvin. Derek Chauvin coolly stared into the eyes of the onlookers, daring them to try to stop him from killing George Floyd. No compassion. No concern. No fear of consequences, although he knew his cold-blooded act was being recorded by many.
The fear that this cold-blooded killer, like so many others, will not be held accountable is what is leading to the rage that we see pouring out on the streets in our cities around the country. I get it. But I’m not convinced it will lead to the change that we so desperately need in this country. It is time for us to be strategic in our actions if we want to see change. Don’t burn yourself out, burning down buildings. Ask yourself, how can we possibly be effective if we use all of our energy destroying our communities? And there is no energy left when it is time to organize and mobilize. I do not pretend to have an exhaustive list of things we can do to effect change, but here are a few ideas:
- Instead of burning Target and Advance Auto to the ground, stop spending your money with these companies if you want to force them to the table. They have insurance for destructive acts such as the ones we are witnessing. There is no insurance if they are not meeting their profit margins. Thus the reason so many companies work hard to identify and target specific consumers. You want them to pay attention to our voices and become our allies, reduce their profit margin by refusing to spend your money with them.
- On blackout day, July 7, 2020, instead of withholding your money from all businesses, support black business owners, and continue that support on a regular basis. Make a heartfelt effort to buy black whenever the opportunity arises.
- Register to vote.
- Vote. Don’t believe the hype that your vote does not matter. It absolutely does. Just like businesses target certain consumers, elected officials target people based upon the statistics provided to them. The bottom line, elected officials are going to spend time in the communities and amongst the people that are going to come to the polls to make sure they keep their jobs for another term.
- Have monthly meetings that center around your community’s needs and how you can effectively fulfill those needs. Leave your judgment and egos at the door and allow everyone to have a seat at the table. UNITED WE STAND! DIVIDED WE FALL!
- Use those meetings to become more organized!
- Fight for fair and equal educational opportunities for poor people of color.
- Take the time to know someone’s story instead of rushing to judgment because of what you see. I guarantee you that a lot of the rage and acting out that we are witnessing is because people feel they have no voice and that the world does not care.
- Fight like hell to remain hopeful! Hopelessness is dangerous on so many levels. Without hope, we have nothing.
- Have some tough conversations amongst ourselves about how pervasive and systemic racism has affected our psyche and divides us as a people.