8 Minutes and 46 Seconds

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.

3 MINUTES

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Register to vote.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. Use those meetings to become more organized!
  7. Fight for fair and equal educational opportunities for poor people of color.
  8. 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.
  9. Fight like hell to remain hopeful! Hopelessness is dangerous on so many levels. Without hope, we have nothing.
  10. Have some tough conversations amongst ourselves about how pervasive and systemic racism has affected our psyche and divides us as a people.

Much Love,

Tonza

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Author: Tonza D. Ruffin

Perfectly Imperfect but VERY PROUD WOMAN, MOM, LAWYER, and AUTHOR, but most importantly...LIFE LOVER! I laugh loud, I work hard, I play hard, I am adventurous, I am curious, I am driven, I have moments of deep insecurity, I am loving, I am vulnerable, I am explosive (not one of my finer qualities), I dance around my house alone, I am an awful perfectionist which makes my insecurity worse, I sing out loud in my car without any concern for whose watching, I have trust issues, I do not live through my children, I no longer try to force my children into the mold that I created so that I could feel validated as a mother, I am a risk-taker, I am guarded in my personal life, I am kind, I am grateful. I am so excited about the rest of my life!

15 thoughts

  1. Well written Councilor, As Always….. Love your thoughts….. Amen

  2. I shared widely and great feedback from all who have read. They are sharing w their friends too! 🖤🖤🖤

  3. Powerful. We’re wasting time and energy burning down what’s only going to be rebuilt. Yes we’re angry but pour that pain into something so powerful.

  4. Good post. I am confused about point #1 though. Have these companies done something I am not aware of that relates to the theme of your post? Target is headquartered in Minneapolis. I have spent time in Minneapolis, Target definitely has a big presence there. Not spending money at Target hurts those in Minneapolis who are employed by their headquarters and stores.

    If they don’t shop at Target do those in Minneapolis have other options close by? I rarely shop at our local Target because it too far of a drive.

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for reading and your thoughtful comments.
      At least one of the Target stores in Minneapolis was destroyed by looters when the protests/riots began. It is now closed as a result of the damage done. Some people took the position that corporations such as Target have not done enough to speak out against police brutality and therefore the destruction of the property was par for the course. I agree that corporations such as Target often drag their feet, or remain silent, when it comes to issues such as the ones we are grappling with now. I do not agree that looting is the appropriate, or most effective, response.
      In point #1 I am saying that insurance will replace the destruction done as a result of the looting. If we really want stores such as Target to support us then we must be mindful of that when we are pouring money into these establishments. If they are not supportive we should find companies that are supportive and spend our money with them. This would naturally create options other than Target and reduce Target’s presence. That is what our capitalist society is built on, a free market that encourages competition.
      If Target has a large presence in Minneapolis I would argue it is because of the financial benefit to Target.

  5. I’ll admit, in this entire scenario I’ve felt very hopeless. That video horrified me. The continuing stories that come out of the United States horrify me. I appreciated your points, though. Voting is going to be so integral in this next election. And, until then, I do agree with the sentiment of supporting black owned businesses on a regular basis. I’ve seen so many corporate emails in the past couple of weeks, all saying different variations of the same thing and then going back to regular business as usual the next day. Like there’s a ‘corporate playbook’… make it genuine and then go back to business as normal. No. Business is not normal right now. Business shouldn’t be normal. I’m so sorry, I am rambling. I just get so stirred up about this. A business sending me one email saying ‘We stand with our black community’ does nothing…. nothing. They’ve got money… donate some of it. They’ve got staff… is their staff inclusive? They’ve got resources, spread awareness and start real conversations with their incluence.

    I’m so sorry for all this rambling.

    Thank you for your post.

    1. You are exactly right! We need more from them but rather than wait for them to step up we need to support black businesses so that they are in a position to pour back into their community.

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