I can’t breathe.
George Floyd cried out these last words, while pleading for his life, in handcuffs. For eight minutes and 46 seconds, a white male officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s windpipe, rendering him lifeless.
Floyd, a black man, was killed in the hands of four white Minneapolis police officers — unarmed at the time of his arrest, suspected of committing a nonviolent crime.
Floyd was crushed by the brute force of Derek Chauvin, a police officer who didn’t dare lift an ounce of pressure from Floyd’s neck even after handcuffing him, even after hearing each of his desperate pleas for his life, and even after Floyd did indeed lay still, unconscious and murdered cold.
But Floyd was also killed by the three other Minneapolis police officers who stood by and watched Chauvin needlessly end a life right before their eyes.
Floyd was also killed by a gross abuse of power that should alarm us all and shake each of us to our core.
And Floyd was also killed by a society that treats people of color, specifically black men, differently than it treats white people. That fact is clear.
It’s OK to be mad. You should be mad. We are mad.
Because we’ve been here before.
For centuries, people of color have faced crude injustice by the hands of white oppressors. They have been forced to endure brutality after brutality in a system designed to put them down.
Mothers and fathers fear for the lives of their children. Children fear for the lives of their siblings and friends.
They walk in a world where they have to rethink every move, tread lightly, look over their shoulder.
Their dreams of success are often riddled with fear of being hunted down and killed in the streets.
For generations, people of color have not known peace. People of color have not known rest.
They have been beaten mercilessly, while bystanders turn a blind eye. They have cried for help and for mercy, but their cries have gone unanswered.
They live in a world where they are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop and praying that it doesn’t fall on them. A life where you must be twice as strong as others, otherwise you would end up consumed by fear and anxiety.
But they’ve grown tired.
They’ve grown tired of the labor, the beatings, the killings, the tears, the fear, the anger, the lack of sound rest. The oppressors thought that by backing them into a corner, they would submit.
Instead, they’ve given them no other choice but to go through them. With the fire they carry in their veins, the strength they carry in their bones and the power that they breathe in their lungs — they will do what they have always done.
They will fight. They will scream. And God so help anyone who gets in their way.
While the crowds that have gathered to protest Floyd’s killing have been painted as anarchists and even thugs by President Donald Trump, it’s important to recognize who is part of this rally cry and why now of all times things have reached a certain point.
Some may argue that the United States is battling two illnesses right now: the novel coronavirus and a 400-year long history of racism. However, the two are very much intertwined.
America operates as two very different systems. Minority groups, predominantly black communities, are being hit harder by this pandemic than white people. Their communities are not as well equipped to handle this illness, fewer have access to privatized healthcare, more are likely to be laid off, yet many are still deemed essential workers who are being asked to go out and risk their lives amidst a global public health crisis.
There is no question as to why black people are angry, and there is no question as to why now is the time to stand up for them and their communities. And the diversity present in these rallies nationwide show the country as a whole is upset.
While we are a student publication founded on journalistic ethics and principles, what is of note to us is how Omar Jimenez, a reporter for CNN, was detained for covering protests in Minneapolis along with the rest of his camera crew — live on television.
This is egregious in the sense that journalists are here to give voice to the voiceless. To serve as educators to the rest of society in order to make everyone aware of important ongoings.
Without the ability to serve in our role, how will we ever be able to fulfill the needs of information seekers?
How will we document this history and make sure we aren’t doomed to repeat it?
And yet despite all the legitimate outrage, violence is not the answer. As so many struggle with the hardships of this virus-induced economic disaster — more than 40 million have filed for unemployment since March — innocent people will now be hurt because of the violence and destruction across the country. Cars burned, businesses looted, restaurants demolished.
We can call for justice while respecting our communities. We can lead peaceful protests while honoring the sanctity of human life. We can raise our voices while raising the dignity and value we place on human life.
And we must.
We must. We must be better than this.
We must all work to identify our implicit biases and then address them. It takes hard work. But it’s on all of us.
It starts with you. “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi once said. It starts with you, in your house, in your town, in your community, on our college campus.
For those out there fighting the good fight, standing up to power, holding those accountable, calling out injustice, working for a better world: we stand with you.
Take those extra breaths to think about what you can do to be better, to make the world more fair, to treat others right. Because unlike George Floyd, we still can.