I didn’t know about George Floyd. I couldn’t.
The news of Floyd’s gruesome and untimely killing was made known to me through a slew of phone calls and texts from friends and church leaders. People reaching out to see if I was OK. My community wanting to know how I am feeling being a person of color with the news of the killing of another black man. Friends reaching out wanting to do more than post on social media. After all, a hashtag can’t possibly make up for a life.
Not another one, I thought to myself.
Another black man killed simply just for living.
Another black man killed simply just for living.
George Floyd, aka “the Gentle Giant,” 46, killed after allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit bill at a local grocery store, Minneapolis, MN, May 25, 2020.
Breonna Taylor, 26, shot eight times while asleep in her bed after a police narcotics raid on her home. Louisville, KY. March 13, 2020.
Ahmaud Arbery, 25, killed while on a jog in a residential neighborhood, Brunswick, GA, February 23, 2020.
Botham Jean, 26, killed in his living room eating ice cream. Dallas, TX. September 6, 2018.
Nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, (State senator and Reverend Clemanta Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, DePayne Middleton, Reverend Daniel Simmons and Myra Thompson), killed in their bible study, Charleston, SC, June 17, 2015.
Michael Brown Jr., 18, unarmed and allegedly repeatedly shot despite his hands being raised in the air, Ferguson, MO, August 9, 2014.
Tamir Rice, 12, shot and killed while playing with a toy gun at a local recreation center, Cleveland, OH, November 22, 2014.
Travyon Martin, 17, shot while returning home from the convenience store, Sanford, FL, February 26, 2012.
I stopped following news like this after the 2016 viral video of Philando Castile being shot and killed by a police officer while his girlfriend and her daughter sat in the car, forced to watch. What started off as a traffic stop for a broken tail light ended in his death.
What started off as a traffic stop for a broken tail light ended in his death.
I remember not being able to get out of bed after watching the video. It played over and over in my head. How could you kill someone at a traffic stop? How could you shoot a man with a little girl in the back seat? How could you be so hasty to jump to the decision of “shoot”?
I have carried the torch for racial equality. I have used my platforms to speak out. I have sat with my white friends and explained the need for them to be allies, imploring them to not stay silent out of fear. I have sat with black friends and encouraged them to not give up, to not grow hopeless and to not allow their hearts to grow cold because of hate.
I have walked in a Black Lives Matters protest, marching arm-in-arm with a white mom and her daughter to my right, a black woman in front of me, a Muslim man to my left. I have felt the unity when people come together despite their differences.
I have watched Ava DuVernay’s film When They See Us and learned about the 1989 story of five teenage boys, 16 years of age and younger, who were wrongfully charged with the assault and rape of a white female jogger in New York’s Central Park. I wept. My heart broke over and over knowing that these boys were just kids.
I sang the Ballad of Birmingham for a talent show audition in college. With each lyric, I remember thinking what it must have felt like to live in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 at the time of the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church. The local chapter of the KKK planted dynamite in the church that would result in the deaths of four black girls, Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14) and Carol Denise McNair (11).
With the news of George Floyd spreading—how he died, his last words, who he was— and protests breaking out across the country, this time I knew I couldn’t get wrapped up in reading the headlines. We know this storyline all too well. My heart can only take so much.
We know this storyline all too well. My heart can only take so much.
This time, I will pray. I will sit with God and ask Him to help me have a soft heart and to not grow weary, bitter, unforgiving or angry. This time, I will cry in the quiet space of my room. I will sit out from the social media posts, the highlight reel, the headlines, the videos and the protests. I will know my capacity for how much weight I can carry.
This time, I will sit out and care for my own heart, in hopes that other people—allies and friends—who don’t look like me will speak up against this injustice instead. That the outrage, anger and heartbreak over the senseless loss of another human life, over another black human being, will compel people to action.
This time, I will pray that my brothers and sisters of all different races and backgrounds will be my keeper. That they will carry the torch because I can’t always speak. I will conserve my energy for a host of other injustices. I will store up my energy to speak up for my Asian and Asian American friends facing prejudice related to COVID-19. I will wait to speak up for my friends who are immigrants and the sons and daughters of immigrants in the instances when they are treated as if they are less than. I will speak again, but not today.
I will pray that my brothers and sisters of all different races and backgrounds will be my keeper.
Today, I am tired. I need a community of people to surround me, to surround us, and speak too.
Image via Raisa Zwart Photography