So we have heard, “George Floyd was a criminal!”
Yes, he was suspected of trying to pass a $20 counterfeit bill. In the United States criminals are allowed due process of the law. He was murdered in cold blood for all the world to see. A policeman kneeled on the neck of a handcuffed man lying prone on the pavement. And the man was black. While the man, George Floyd, cried out for his deceased mother, the officer, Derek Chauvin, looked away at cameras, his hand in his pocket, his knee on Floyd’s neck.
George Floyd is not a hero. He is a symbol of every black soul unjustly treated and killed by police, lynch mobs, or others because of the color of his skin. He also is a symbol of every black soul who suffers unjustly in housing, education, employment and health care. In this recent COVID-19 scourge, black people lose their lives at a much greater rate. Lower paying jobs, inadequate health care and lower education levels are contributing factors.
Suddenly, as if a smoke screen was lifted, eyes across the world were opened. Suddenly, after so many black lives were lost to police violence for so many years, citizens of the world cared enough to say “enough!” As if for the first time, the protests and cries for the last 400 years of oppression were broadly heard. There was outrage and protests, vandalism and destruction. Shame. Wrongdoers, many of whom were white and from afar, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and reparations made for the damages.
At Floyd’s memorial there was a cry by the Rev. Al Sharpton, “Get your knee off my neck.” The knee of oppression is not just by police; it is in housing, education, health care. This oppression is racist. It exists in every heart in this country to some degree.
What? You don’t mean me! I am not a racist!” Look deeper, friend. Where were we when injustices were done because of darker skin color? In line at the grocery store, in the community swimming pool, on a bus, on a train or on a plane, how did you choose your seat? The louder we cry, “I am not a racist,” the deeper goes the cover-up – to ourselves.
I have two very dear black nephews who were adopted into our family at birth. They each grew up in a very white culture. We were blind to their skin color. They were family. They, however, were very aware of their race, probably every day of their lives. They just did not share their pain with their aunt. I did not see their suffering in day-to-day encounters. Shame on me.
The new protests all over the world may just stem the tide. Representation from all ages and races marched for change. Maybe this time. Already legislation has been proposed with bipartisan support. Justice in Policing Act of 2020 calls for banning chokeholds; mandatory use of body and car cameras; a national database to track police misconduct; and investigations of misconduct done by a neutral party, not the police department itself. The bill also proposes that police would not have “qualified immunity,” which protects officers from lawsuits for civil rights legislation. Having a uniform code of conduct for officers across the country, as well as national records of officer misconduct would save lives. Presently, different states have different laws. If a law is a good one, it makes no difference who proposes it.
Nicole Watkins, in her June 3 article for “The Lily,” wrote, “Because when Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Freddie Gray died, you screamed about businesses and broken windows instead of broken bones and ended life. You complained about Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during your precious football game but would not once speak up about the injustice he was kneeling for. When I said #BlackLivesMatter, you argued #AllLives Matter.” This time we all mean “Black Lives Matter.” It is not just an organization; it is a guiding philosophy. When black lives eventually matter, are valued, are no longer racially profiled, we will have taken the knee off the neck.”
Ann vonHoorn is a Tideland News Contributor.