It feels as if this world has been set on fire and flipped upside down in a matter of days— in far many more ways than one. Last week I talked about how the Class of 2020 is facing a whole lot of hardship when it comes to figuring out what’s next for us and I’m now one week closer to graduation. For me, that’s an exciting thing, but compared to what’s happening in the world around us, it seems almost irrelevant.
Because like I said, it feels like the world is on fire and in the US, some of it actually is. This time, these flames do not feel like they are going out quickly.
Throughout the pandemic, some of us have had the privilege of restructuring our lives in order to shelter in place or work from home still with food on our tables and virtual classes to attend. That being said, staying inside and scaling our lives back slowed everything down for the past few months to the point that it seemed almost like hidden tension.
Maybe we didn’t notice it, but staring at screens and trying to adjust however we could kept us all pent up with a lot of energy trying to get out. Especially with the presence of so much xenophobia and hate directed towards many Asian folx as well as incidents of more black people losing their lives— Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, just to name two—these things happened while everything was shut down. It might feel as if these things are in the past, considering states are now deciding to begin opening back up and people are trying to find a new normal.
So why am I bringing this up today, if these things happened “a while” ago?
Because George Floyd did not die a while ago. And the Minnesota protests did not begin a while ago. And Donald Trump’s tweet did not happen a while ago. These things are happening now, and I think they’re important to talk about; they will very likely affect all of our lives from here on out, regardless of the color of your skin.
Let me tell you why.
First things first, who was George Floyd and why does it—he—matter? On Monday, Memorial day, I’ve looked into several sources from CNN and a Facebook video (you’re better off not watching the 7 minutes) to the New Yorker and NBC all reporting on the same story: Police were called about a counterfeit bill issue to a Minnesota store and believed Floyd to fit the description of the suspect. Long story short, Floyd complied and got out of his car before things escalated quickly and he was suddenly detained on the ground with police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck, Floyd’s cheek on the ground. He couldn’t breathe. And he said so.
Does that sound familiar? Those same words—”I can’t breathe”—were spoken by Eric Garner in 2014, before his death at the hands of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, and it seems little has changed when Floyd met the same fate on Monday in Minnesota. Same situation. Same race. New decade. No surprise.
So what’s next?
Since Monday, protests have commenced in the streets of the state and spread across the country from there. Though Floyd died on Monday, it didn’t take long for people to begin wondering what they could do. Some took to protesting, pulling out their signs and setting their bodies to work—if that’s what works for you, do whatever is within your means to get out there. However, there are a lot of people who don’t know what they can and can’t do when it comes to speaking up for black lives, especially when they are not black.
What are the options? One way or another, it doesn’t feel good to know that people are dying, at least for most people watching these videos and hearing the stories that spread off of this one. It can be a lot. For starters, here’s an option through Shondaland with Shonda Rhimes for ways to get involved and/or educated if you’re not sure where to start. Another option is this here, which is a link tree, a link that leads to a page of listed information on how you can get involved in ways that might be more comfortable: education resources, donation and relief links, petition links, and so much more.
Thanks to a friend, Lani Hemmings, she compiled this list knowing that it will help many people cannot sift through the amount of information thrown at them in times like these, as it can get overwhelming having to figure it all out on your own. When you still want to get involved or if you’re someone like me, you have to do something. Especially when you see what I saw last night.
Did you see the tweet?
What I’m talking about is last night’s tweet from our 45th president stating that he spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him “all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” I know that I’ve only been around for two decades or so, but this statement struck me as a serious one. It almost seemed like a declaration.
Earlier, I said this matters for those of us who are not only people of color because, more often than not, statements like the one our President made often imply that there will be people caught in the crossfire. With this, there almost sounds as if there is a shifting tide towards violence, and I’ll be honest, something about all this makes me nervous even when he followed up his tweets in the usual “let me explain” fashion hours later.
Because there is one more black man’s name that came up in the news on Monday, and although I was happy to see that this was not the name of a dead man, the reason I know his name still speaks volumes. Christian Cooper found himself face to face with a white woman in Central Park while on a walk Monday evening. Though the initial issue was that the woman had her dog off leash, a common issue for the park, and Cooper was filming proof, the situation escalated when she noticed the camera. Pulling out her phone, the woman looked at Cooper and called the police, claiming that an African-American man was threatening the life of her and her dog. At about two minutes long, take a quick look at the video here.
Notice how quickly the woman’s voice turned from accusatory to hysterical, even while her facial expression never changed? I point this out because if you consider being on the other end of that phone call, the listener would probably think she truly was being threatened or attacked or chased in the way she claimed. If she were the dog, at least her claims would be true. Unfortunately, this video was a wakeup call on how easy it can be to incriminate someone based on the color of their skin if they have no way to prove their own innocence. I mean, we know about the Central Park Five for a reason.
This week has served as a reminder to me of how quickly we can go from thinking about the future to realizing that sometimes, we are not all offered that privilege. There has been a lot on my mind this week and today’s blog post is one way to share all of that with each of you. With everything going on in Minnesota, today the developments on the story leave Chauvin currently charged with third-degree murder and the US still in major turmoil.
If you’re feeling the tension, know that it’s not just you. Find your resources, some that I’ve listed above and plenty more out there. There’s a balance in this, knowing when to speak up and when to step back—when you get the chance, say something. Because silence can kill just as much as the people holding the guns.
More than anything though, keep yourself safe and check in with the people you love. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and with everything going on, all of this can be mentally and emotionally draining very easily. Take time to step back from it all and remember to, well, breathe when you can.
And remember that at the end of the day, you made it to the end of the week too. It’s Friday. So take care this weekend and I’ll see you all next week.