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Shattered

May 28, 2020

Man.. things are so seriously messed up. I’m not even sure I can put adequate words to this.. well, I know I can’t. So bear with me. I want my blog to have some kind of accounting of the rage and heartache so many are feeling around the completely senseless death a few days ago of a 46 year old man, George Floyd.

But honestly.. it’s hard to even grasp a single tragedy without broader perspectives and contexts for the tragedies that lead to it.. and shit.. it’s not like I’m going to make sense of any of that in this late night of writing.

Be that as it may..

This is George Floyd.

george in jacket

Four white Minneapolis police officers stopped him to question him about his maybe involvement in the possible use of a counterfeit bill in a liquor store. And even though he appears to calmly comply with directives throughout their police procedures, he still ends up face down on the ground with one of the officers forcefully holding him in place with his  knee on the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck. He is saying over and over again that he cannot breathe; numerous onlookers are close enough to see what’s going on and are repeatedly, insistently, desperately saying things like let him go, he can’t breathe.  This goes on for 7-8 minutes. The officer simply ignores Mr. Floyd’s pleas, even when he begs for his mom. The officer looks like he cannot be bothered and even has his hands in his pocket. The other three officers are simply looking on, making no efforts whatsoever to stop this. You wouldn’t believe something as inhumane as this could happen–IN FULL VIEW OF DOZENS OF PEOPLE, many of whom are recording it–if you didn’t watch the video (and there are a lot of bystander videos, not to mention body cam videos soon to be released) with your own eyes.  It is such a shocking display of contempt for a human life it leaves you absolutely stunned and sickened.

George Floyd died a short while later.

There is pretty much not a soul on earth who could look at the video and not conclude the officers — in particular the guy who pinned Mr. Floyd with his knee — constrained and then killed this man not in self defense, not in a moment of temporary confusion, not in response to any resistance on his part, but in some inexplicable perversion of duty.

Without a doubt, one of the most horrific things I’ve ever witnessed, especially as you know he dies from this barbarism.

Tonight was the third in a row of protests and looting. The violence in Minneapolis has escalated each day and is now spreading to other cities. Tonight, rioters took over the police precinct in that part of city. The entire police force and staff vacated the building and just left the area. It was a calculated decision .. I think it was the least costly move in terms of safety for all concerned. The building is on fire as I write this and will probably soon completely collapse, as have numerous other buildings in the area (like, a Target store and several other commercial buildings that have burned to the ground).

So that’s what happened, but what I can’t wrap my head around is how this kind of profound injustice just keeps happening.  I’ve been listening a good part of today to numerous African Americans describe the pain, the anger, the weariness and I’m just so profoundly sad AND disgusted AND angry AND ashamed for how white people treat black people. It just makes me sick.

And, of course, it’s not isolated. A few days ago an African American guy was birdwatching in Central Park (NYC) and asked a woman to put her dog on a leash (leash law in that part of park). She refuses and he decides to record the situation. She becomes agitated and threatens to call the cops. He says please do, please call the cops! She does and tells the dispatcher that she’s in danger, that an African American man is threatening her life (he was doing nothing of the sort). I don’t know if the police show up, but his video goes viral, she gets fired from her job, gives up her newly adopted dog and issues a sincere apology, stating that she is not a racist. One could possibly see how emotions, fear (even if irrational) could get out of control, but her presumption of a threat because he’s black, using her whiteness as leverage over his blackness and instinctually manipulating the situation to become an instant victim to his perpetrator is straight up racism. And if you think we’re dealing with ignorance or some supreme lack of awareness … I don’t think so.. She went to the University of Chicago (one of the most prestigious schools in the country, in a city where about a third of the population is black) and he went to Harvard and, among other impressive things, sits on the NYC Audubon Society board of directors.. a serious birdwatcher.  This is Christian Cooper:

Screen Shot 2020-05-28 at 11.23.15 PM

Or how about last week when video turned up of the cold blooded murder–committed by a white man and his son, and recorded (yep!) by a friend (white)–of an African American young man, Ahmaud Arbery, who was just out for a jog. It’d have been swept right under the state of Georgia’s rug, but for that video. No idea how the friend came to release the video three months after the murder occurred.

ahmaud

Or 26 year old Breonna Taylor, a healthcare worker at University of Louisville hospital (working full time on covid-19 cases), who, two months ago, was asleep in her apartment when Louisville police broke in with a search warrant (for the wrong house) and shot her 8 times in her bed.

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 12.04.01 AM

And Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Stephon Clark..

Wiser people have a depth of understanding for the racism that permeates our culture, an experience of racism that I’ll never have. I don’t pretend to know any more than what I have observed. But I’m angry, disgusted and so ashamed for our society.

These are hard times, harder still for those in the margins. The racism that’s never far away is exacerbated by unexpected changes in our lives brought about by a pandemic –profound stresses around fear of illness and death, the vicious divisions the president stokes for political advantage (he’s so disgusting), the economic chasms getting deeper and wider, a loss of control, futures growing increasingly uncertain.. it’s hard. People are fragile. It wouldn’t  take a lot to rattle folks.. but a senseless, racially charged murder is dynamite.

I’m shaken.  I’m scared by the cruelty and unhinged-ness. What in the world is wrong with people that they regard other human beings with such contempt. Nobody should have to live with that.

Please, people, more kindness. How about more love and less ugliness, how about just respecting each other.

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