BY SAMANTHA COCCO | May 29, 2020
I know you’re tired of seeing these posts. As white people, we are tired of hearing about it because it doesn’t affect us. Because we know we can commit a petty crime and not wonder if we’ll make it out of our arrests alive. Because we know we can go jogging and come home alive. Because we can lay down for a nap and not worry about never waking up again. Because our kids can play with toy guns. Because we know we don’t pose a threat to authority figures with tasers and nightsticks and guns for the simple fact of our skin color and what it represents. But we are nowhere near as tired as Black people and POC. Black folks are tired because they’re living it, every day. They’re tired of having a good day until they open their phone or computer and see the news that another brother or sister has been unjustly murdered.
George Floyd’s final words were “I can’t breathe.” Sound familiar? That’s because they were the final words of Eric Garner. History repeating itself in a most disgusting way. A literal, desperate plea for the basic human right of BREATHING, LIVING. Why were these two men killed? No, not because they are Black. Black people are allowed to be Black. They were killed because of white supremacy, because it was threatened. Call it what it is.
And so we add George Floyd to the stomach-churning, heart-wrenching list of those whose lives were ended by police. Say their names. Sean Reed. Breonna Taylor. Michael Brown. Philando Castile. Botham Jean. Alton Sterling. Sandra Bland. Atatiana Jefferson. Freddie Gray. Tamir Rice. Keith Childress. Stephon Clark. Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Walter Scott. Antwon Rose, Jr. Keith Scott. Jonathan Ferrell. Jordan Edwards. Amadou Diallo. Sean Bell. Terrence Crutcher. John Crawford. Oscar Grant. Corey Jones. Too many to name. 104 unarmed Black people in 2015 alone.
And say the names of those killed by white nationalists emboldened by the knowledge that they wouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. Trayvon Martin. Ahmaud Arbery. The Charleston 9. Renisha McBride. Jordan Davis. Emmett Till. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hundreds of thousands throughout the history of our country whose names we will never know.
But out of all those names, we’re going to make a national disaster about Colin Kaepernick, huh? Do you comprehend yet why he took a knee? His knee is NOTHING compared to that officer’s knee on George Floyd’s neck, collapsing his windpipe and ending his life. Pick a different knee to get upset about.
I don’t care what George Floyd could or should have done differently—in the first place or in the moment—because I’ve got examples of crazed white people with automatic weapons who had just killed dozens of innocent people who were apprehended and taken into custody alive. I expect better of the people my city employs to protect us and you should, too.
And I don’t really care to hear about how police have a dangerous job—they do and I know that and I respect that. There are police officers I love deeply and, of course, I don’t want them in danger. But what we clearly see in the George Floyd video is NOT immediate danger posed to them. We see no immediate danger in dozens of these videos, and that’s only the situations we have video evidence of. What we see are trained officers who KNOW better, who KNOW when a situation is under control, yet CHOOSE to use unnecessary force to restrain a person who does not pose an immediate threat, aside from threatening their white supremacy. Officers who choose to ignore their pleas and ignore their dignity and basic human rights.
If you’re having trouble recognizing or feeling angry about white supremacy, take this advice from the movie A Time to Kill—Matthew McConaughey’s in it, you like him. Watch the videos of racial violence, then go back and watch them again. This time, imagine the victims are white. Now, check out the photos of statehouse protesters over the past few weeks armed with weapons demanding the country reopen. Go back and look at them again. This time, imagine the armed protesters are Black. Because UNARMED men and women are protesting in Minnesota right now and getting tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets while white men with confederate flag T-shirts and machine guns are afforded their right to protest. Recognize your inherent racism. It’s painful. I recognize mine. I’m angry at myself and my race and my society and I’m fueling it all into this:
The officers involved in George Floyd’s murder have been fired and an investigation is being conducted but we know how many officers have not been indicted or not been convicted.
The only way to stop this is to show our country that this won’t be tolerated. That there are consequences. To encourage law enforcement training and community policing. To demand justice and change from all sides.
Call. Email. Write. Demand. It’s not the responsibility of Black people, though they’re contacting more than anyone else. It’s on all of us to create the community we want to live in.
Take action today, both on behalf of Minneapolis, and in your own community:
Email the Hennepin County Attorney to demand justice for George Floyd at email@example.com using this template:
Attention: Hennepin County Attorney
I am writing as a person of faith who believes in the inherent dignity of every human life to demand that the office of the Hennepin county attorney use its power to arrest and charge the police officers responsible for the murder of George Floyd.
George Floyd is a victim of unchecked police brutality and violence, and these officers must be held accountable for this murder.
Email the police department in your own city [try Googling your city’s name + police department email] to demand training, screening, and policies for officers that builds a culture of racial equity and justice using this template:
Attention: Chief of Police
I am writing as a person of faith and a citizen of [YOUR CITY] in light of the recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
In order to build a culture of safety and justice in our community, I ask that you institute mandatory training and accountability for all officers in our city to prevent similar injustices—policies that uphold the dignity of the life of every person in our community, regardless of their race and background.
[Editor’s notes: This piece was orginally posted by the author on social media and has been edited for this series.
On Friday, May 29, 2020, the officer primarily responsible for the murder of George Floyd was arrested in Minneapolis. The other three officers involved have not yet been arrested or charged.]
Samantha Cocco is a two-time alum of John Carroll University (’09, ’16G), former Jesuit Volunteer (Pohnpei, FSM, ’09-’11), and current women’s coordinator for the Akron Chapter of the Ignatian Spirituality Project. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio, where she is research administrator for the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University, and a semi-professional theatre actor.
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