Who Now? Who Tomorrow?
George Floyd should be alive. And the officers who killed him behind bars. But he’s not and they aren’t.
We don't live in a color blind society. We never have and never will. And to act, comport oneself or believe such is to be a part of the deadly racism that plagues, threatens and erodes America — and senselessly cuts short and destroys the lives of black people and all people every single day. As a white woman, I have undoubtedly benefitted from systems of white supremacy since the moment I was born, and even before that. And black people die because of them, like George Lloyd just yesterday. Who now? Who tomorrow?
Today, #GeorgeFloyd is trending. He was killed on Monday evening in Minneapolis — when a police officer kneeled on his neck for multiple minutes without reprieve. While pinned to the ground and visibly struggling, he repeated “I can’t breathe” in great physical distress, the same words Eric Garner uttered before he died at the hands of NYPD in broad daylight in the middle of a street with cars and people all around. A clip went viral on Facebook, as witnesses repeatedly begged officers to get off the unarmed man who then lay motionless, unconscious, before being loaded onto a stretcher and dying. Four Minneapolis police officers have now been fired. That’s a start, sure. But they must now be charged, arrested and convicted. So too must the system that allows, perpetuates and promotes this be dismantled.
Yesterday, #AmyCooper was trending — the white woman in Central Park (in New York City, not the south!) who called the cops when a man (a birdwatcher!) simply asked her to follow the rules and put a leash on her dog. Because the man was black. She felt safe calling the police (privilege), lied outright to 911 (without consequence), claiming there was an "African-American man threatening my life” (baseless) — gross displays of overt racism which endangered Christian Cooper’s life. He could easily be that hashtag, the next dead body or man imprisoned for, what, “birding while black." She’s since been fired too. But only because Christian Cooper took out his phone to film her, got out of the way before further conflict or violence, and the clip that his sister then posted on Twitter went viral. Amy Cooper could have had him killed, or at the very least imprisoned (which can instantly destroy a life, a family, a community) because too often it’s the word of a white woman against a black man without video to refute it (even WITH video to refute it!). A white woman’s accusation of Emmett Till whistling at her got him killed.
Racism should not need to go viral to bring about justice. Murder should not need to go viral to bring about justice. I wrote that same sentence in the wake of the public outrage following Ahmaud Arbery’s death and his murderers being charged 74 days after the two white men hunted and executed the black jogger in Georgia… only because the video went viral. But what even is justice? The arrest of murderers of that black man? The firing (*not* arrest) of police officers who murdered another black man? The firing of a racist white woman who threatened a third black man? Nothing can bring back those lives, nor make black men feel safe, nor eliminate racism.
Ahmaud Arbery is dead. George Floyd is dead. And countless black men and women in America are dead, names we will never know, stories we will never see, justice that will never even have the chance to be pursued. We need body cameras, yes. We need citizens to pull out their phones, yes. We need bystanders to capture injustice on film, yes. But we need fundamental change in America to combat the weaponization of white privilege, police brutality, institutionalized racism, and systems that perpetuate oppression — like those which allow for black people to account for a disproportionate number of Covid deaths and face of a disproportionate percentage of the economic turmoil and on and on and on.
You might not want it to be, but this is America. Unjust, unequal, unsafe. Dangerous, destructive, dysfunctional. What are you doing to change that? To fight that? To combat that? Because sharing a hashtag while people die every damn day for “being black while" is nowhere near enough.
Nor is this, but a few fellow white women in collaboration with black women compiled this list of concrete actions YOU can take for racial justice a few years back (medium.com/…/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2…), including advocating for criminal justice and police reform, changing education systems, contacting companies directly, donating to grassroots organizations, supporting black businesses, divesting from those that support white supremacy and prison labor, watching, reading, lobbying, studying, following, writing, engaging honestly, shutting the fuck up and listening to black people and people of color who live these seemingly unfathomable yet all too real, tragic, painful, deadly truths every day. And with that, I am going to listen to my own advice.