I have received a lot of questions as to my opinions about what is happening right now in our country as a result of the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. I decided I would dedicate this #honestlyrach to address some of your questions.
So let me first start off by saying that I do not condone looting or the outrageous actions that I am witnessing as the aftermath of the peaceful protests. I am saddened that the intent is getting lost in those who are hijacking the protests with their selfish and shameful conduct. I whole-heartedly believe in protesting. It is a basic human right that my ancestors were beaten, sprayed, attacked, and killed for by exercising. But how did we get here today? Well, black people have been fighting for their freedom, rights, and equality since 1619 until now. I have talked at great lengths about the history and oppression of black people in this country. I have also seen a list of books being circulated around on social media that can delve into a deeper history for those that are willing to explore and learn about it. So, I will only take it back to July 17, 2014.
On this day, Eric Garner was approached by NYPD officers on the suspicion of selling cigarettes without a tax stamp. When the officers attempted to arrest Garner one officer placed his arm around Garner's neck and wrestled him to the ground. It should be noted that this chokehold is an illegal use of force. With multiple officers restraining him, Garner repeated the words "I can't breathe" 11 times while lying face down on the sidewalk. After Garner lost consciousness, officers turned him onto his side to ease his breathing. Garner remained lying on the sidewalk for seven minutes while the officers waited for an ambulance to arrive. Garner was pronounced dead at an area hospital approximately one hour later. The medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide. A grand jury later decided not to indict this officer. He was not fired from the police department until 2019!
So you see, “I can’t breathe” is not a new statement to us. And although the murder of Eric Garner sparked protests and outrage in our community, it only stayed in our community. Eric Garner is just one example and one name in a laundry list of names that have died unjustly at the hands of the very people that are supposed to serve and protect us…the police force.
George Floyd - 2020
Breonna Tayor (home) - 2020
Ahamuad Arbery (jogging) -2020
Botham Sean and Atatiana Jefferson (sitting in their homes) -2019
Jonathan Ferrell – 2013 (asking for help after being in a car crash)
Stephon Clark (using a cell phone) – 2018
Jordan Edwards (leaving a party) – 2017
Alton Sterling (selling CDs) – 2016
Aiyana Jones [child] (sleeping) – 2010
Mike Brown (walking from the corner store) – 2014
Tamir Rice [child] (playing with toys) – 2014
Trayvon Martin (walking home with skittles) – 2012
Sean Bell (leaving bachelor party) – 2006
Oscar Grant (leaving NYE party) – 2009
Sandra Bland (traffic ticket) – 2015
Corey Jones (car troubles) – 2015
John Crawford (shopping at Walmart) – 2014
Terrence Crutcher (disabled vehicle) – 2016
Keith Scott (reading book in car) – 2016
Clifford Glover [child] (walking with grandfather) – 1973
Claude Reese [child] (decorating for a party) – 1974
Randy Evans [child] (asking a question to a cop) – 1976
Yvonne Smallwood (cashing a check) – 1987
Amadou Diallo (taking out a wallet) – 1999
Walter Scott - 2015
Freddie Gray - 2015
And this list does not even scratch the surface. This is why we are mad. This is why we are angry. This is why we are frustrated. This is why we are hurt. We are tired of black people being reduced to a face on a t- shirt and a hashtag. It’s inhumane. We have been protesting peacefully for decades to no avail. We have protested in the most peaceful and respectful way such as simply taking a knee; and even that was heavily criticized. This is why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that “rioting is the language of the unheard.” We have not been seen. We have not been heard. We have not been valued. We have not been respected. We have not been treated equally.
If you look around there is civil unrest in our country. If you turn on the news we are on the brink of a civil war. In these unprecedented times, we need a leader and we don’t have one. We don’t have anyone leading our country to guide American citizens to some sort of resolution to lead us out of this current state. Our President has not officially addressed the nation but has resorted to tweets with subtle racists undertones with language such as: “thugs,” “vicious dogs.” and “when the looting starts the shooting starts” and enlisting “MAGA”. If you don’t understand the racist implications of these tweets let me break it down.
1) Trump generalized all protestors as “thugs”. As someone who actually protested, what you don’t see on the news is that most of them have been peaceful. Not all protestors are thugs. They are just exercising their human rights.
2) He referenced “vicious dogs” in regards to the protesting. Historically, when black people protested racist police officers would release dogs to viciously attack them to stop the peaceful protests.
3) Trump tweeted: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” That is a phrase infamously used by one of the most blatantly racist police chiefs in history who stood on a proud platform of condoning police brutality against people of color. Additionally notorious former Governor of Alabama and segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace used this phrase during his 1968 campaign.
4) Lastly, Trump called for “MAGA Night” in the wake of these protests and specifically noted that “MAGA loves African- American and black people.” Do you know why Trump made this disclaimer? He made it because MAGA protestors have a history of being linked to white supremacist groups and supports. For reference please educate yourselves on the incidents at Charlottesville. Subsequently after Charlottesville, David Duke (white supremacist and former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the KKK) thanked Trump for his support and response to the Charlottesville incident and for being on their side.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is our president. And this is why we have to fight for change. As Former President Obama just wrote: “If we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both.” So many of you all have asked me how can we help, what do we do and where do we go from here? I would love to challenge you. The first step is being aware that there is a problem. In a way that I have never seen before, many people are using their platforms to post quotes, stories, pictures, and various ways to learn about the inequality in this country and to understand their privilege. But as I have outlined above, sadly George Floyd’s incident is not an isolated one. I challenge you to put actions behind your platform to make a difference. Continue to read, learn, and grow but being aware is not enough. At this point we all can agree that blacks in this country have been oppressed by systemic racism in every way. The only way to make change is to demand it with actions such as protests, volunteering, donations, and voting!!! If as non-blacks, you are truly as outraged as blacks then don’t feel sorry for us with messages. Help us with action! We are in an election year. As outlined above, we have a “leader” who has not made racism and police reform an agenda; if anything he has perpetuated the problem. We have to vote in our local, state, and national elections for the candidate that is going to make change, and not the one who stays silent and comfortable in his own privilege. We have to elect politicians in office that are going to push for legislation that will eliminate these problems and will justly and equally apply the law to all Americans. Register to vote and make your voice heard on your ballots. Don’t continue to allow these injustices to define our society.