Because I have a black son, the moment I saw George Floyd laying in the street calling out for his mother felt personal.
I will never forget the sound of his cries and the moment it all stopped. The end of that eight minutes and 46 seconds will never be forgotten, because it was the first time I had ever watched someone die. The haunting images of a man begging for air as he had the life squeezed out of him will stay will me forever.
He was desperate. He knew this was the end. He was told by bystanders to get up. He couldn’t. He told them so. He was pinned down with his cheek pressed against the concrete. He had no chance of fighting back. He was no match for the knee on his neck. He couldn’t breathe. He grew weaker. He was silent. He was motionless. He was lifeless. He died.
I watched him as he begged and pleaded. He knew his life depended on it. His dying wish was nothing more than a breath of air, and he was denied that.
Because I am a human being, and especially because I have a black son, I stared at the television with my hands over my mouth. Tears ran down my face as I watched for movement. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but then again, I could.
This was the norm. Black people had been murdered by the police many times before. We’d watched the events take place many times before. We had watched similar events that were captured on camera before. We knew that there would be no way that the bad cops who murdered black men would get away with their crimes, but they always did.
We’ve gotten angry, frustrated, felt helpless and then after a day or so, we’d become consumed with the next big news story. In my mind, this bad cop was going to get away with this atrocious crime. I had no reason to believe otherwise.
It didn’t take long for my sons to come across the video on their phones. They had questions, but my husband and I didn’t have all the answers. They couldn’t understand what George Floyd had done to deserve murder that day or why the officer didn’t seem to care that this was all happening in front of witnesses who clearly pointed cameras in his direction. We didn’t know why the other officers didn’t do what we all wished we could have done; intervene.
Their final question: Do you think the officer will go to jail this time? “This time”. The words cut deep.
This time the killing was different. This time a black man died by the hands of a police officer, but this time we didn’t watch a struggle. This time we watched a man who was unable to move beg for his life for nearly nine minutes while an officer nonchalantly pressed his knee against his neck. This time the death of a black man who was accused of using a fake $20 bill sparked protests that are still ongoing.
I’m cautiously optimistic that one day my sons will be guaranteed to drive away from a routine traffic stop. I’m not sure that my black children will be able to go jogging in a neighborhood and not be murdered because they look like they don’t belong there.
I hope that I will never have to feel the pain that Breona Taylor’s loved ones felt when they were informed that she was killed because police officers had entered the wrong apartment. I hope that my children will be able to sit down with their children and explain what to do when pulled over by a police officer and give the same advice that their white friends give to their children.
I hope that the conversation that they have with their children involves more of what to do instead of what not to do. I pray that they will one day be able to let go of the fear that reaching for their driver’s license may result in a fatal shooting. I can only hope that if they make the mistake of drinking and falling asleep while sitting behind the wheel in their parked car in a drive-thru that they’ll be allowed to walk home or even be driven to their sister’s house instead of the option to either go to jail or be shot to death.
I hope that history will stop repeating itself.
We are fighting for racial equality, but I’m not optimistic at all that one day I’ll be treated the way I would if my skin was colorless. I hope that I’m wrong and that one day we’ll all be treated as equals, regardless.
The question is, should we keep dreaming? Will my four little children be seen as equals one day? Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was nearly 60 years ago. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Sixty years later, we’re still dreaming.
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