I’ve remained silent about the murder of George Floyd . . . even in my own home. Here’s why – like all other black men in America, it could have been me. I’ve just been lucky that I survived each vile, inhumane encounter. Encounters with all of America, not just the police.
I avoid looking at the footage of George Floyd’s murder. I’m sickened by the fact that it’s run nearly nonstop on every platform a video can aire. Human life is sacred. Reporting on the callousness of a man’s death is one thing but gratuitous reruns of one man murdering another for no apparent reason is quite macabre. It’s become so sacrilegious. I mean, come on, who in this world hasn’t seen that image yet?
I know I’m a bit harsh, maybe even out of touch. But I come from a place where actual slave quarters were alive and operational as I celebrated my 20th birthday. Some might think that birthday was a long time ago because I grew up in 1960’s America. I say think again.
I’m from a place where, as a child, a relative was killed by a police officer because he dared to be seen alone with a white girl – after dark. I am the product of a time when every teacher and every student in all of my classes were Black. Then massive protests forced a change. But did it really?
Even though I left that place as soon as I could, I quickly realized those slave quarters were everywhere I could possibly run to in America. We called them the Quarters but across the country they’re known by different names. Names like the Cuny Homes in Houston, the Magnolia Projects and the Desire Projects in New Orleans, the Jordan Downs in Watts, the Pinks in Brooklyn, Johnston Square in Baltimore, Techwood Homes in Atlanta, the Queensbridge Houses and Marcy Houses in New York or the Robert Taylor Homes and Cabrini-Green in Chicago. All reminiscent of the slave quarters of America’s original sin.
I ran to places where, nearly every day, I was the only black face in the room. A black face they allow to enter but wanted silenced. They didn’t want to hear that we investigated, arrested and jailed black men and women at rates exponentially higher than their white counterparts committing the same crimes. No one would listen when I said our strength as a law enforcement agency comes from who we recruit, not who we convict. In the end, we end up with one murder after the other at the hands of a government that turns a blind eye.
But let’s not kid ourselves. The problem isn’t the police – they’re just the tool America thinks can fix everything. Especially if the people that need “fixing” are Black. American individualism and selfishness are the problem. We act like we don’t see the homeless on the streets. We mock the mentally ill. We ignore both young and old, creating an uneducated, unhealthy poor. We spew venom like “Make America Great Again” when it’s never been simply “good” for Black people. We’re so self-centered we don’t vote people out of office that do nothing for us. And that is a slap in the face of those who died to give us that right.
Countless Americans are so rich and privileged they don’t believe that the promise of America has been intentionally distanced from the reach of its Black population. We celebrate our fortune as individual successes and criticize the less fortunate as . . . well, not us. We’ve moved from the slave quarters to the big house, so we have, in great measure, distanced ourselves from America’s Black population.
So, I’ve remained silent because my very existence screams about Black life in America every time I leave my home. I’ve remained silent because I am appalled that it took such a gruesome display of human indecency to wake up the country. I’ve remained silent because I still fear for my life in America.