Art by @cadexherrera, @xenadecia, @gretamclain
Of course, we have all seen this before. A cringe, look away, no, don’t look away. Then you send your kids out of the room.
Last time it was Chris Cuomo. Don Lemon cashed in his token this time and in a rare afternoon appearance let his mind explode on TV.
Behind the scenes, the District Attorney kept his promise with the local Fraternal Order of Police and kept the boys out of the sneezer for just a little bit longer. Schedule a funeral for the Target and the AutoZone. The social media industrial complex even burned down a police station… Too bad I left my fainting couch in the Target. In conclusion, almost like one last, swift suckerpunch, a black man got arrested on CNN. He just happened to be reporting for CNN.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Jamar Clark got shot by police after an argument at a party he was attending. David Smith was shot having a psychological episode outside of the downtown YMCA. Then, Philando Castile, the most likely to be familiar. He was killed sitting in his car, his 4 year old daughter in the back seat. It was documented on Facebook Live. Why do I bring up these names? These are all black men killed by the Minneapolis police.
These stories tick off like a metronome. It’s turning over a rock on our American landscape: you look underneath and what you see tells a totally different story. It feels so naive, when I hear people comment on how often all of this is happening lately. This is always happening. It has always happened. It’s not even an open secret. So many mothers, fathers, brothers, lovers, friends. Destinies suffocated, mourned, stolen away.
I heard President Jimmy Carter, while in office, kept meticulous records of people falling asleep at work. It was an unceremonious tradition, with its own folder of records, a scoring system, even a designated polaroid camera to document the offending party. In my deranged mind, this feels a lot like that.
It’s a phenomenon mutated into a spectacle, where you even keep track of the variables. Leaving the bar on the morning of your wedding, everyone in the car gets shot. Standing in the vestibule of your walkup, 57 shots. Jogging down the country road, a couple of shotgun blasts. A race to hear, “I can’t breathe.”
I may sound like an asshole, but it just seems like a terrible moment for this to be happening. The history books, still unwritten, will tell of the vicious mix of circumstances.
Restless populations lured into bravado by the warm spring night. The need for agency, to be able to interface with a justice system so tragically broken. The criminal silence of a leadership all but nonexistent. And finally, this fear: so new, so unknown, that the flames that light the nights I see seem to serve as lanterns.
The fear is in the invisible: the crowds, and the shouting, and the bare faces. I wish I did not imagine the particles spinning, dancing through the heaving mobs. Watching the numbers coalesce, pushing and pulling, I remember the beautiful compression of a protest. Hearts pressed to backs, feet entangled and untangling instantly. I remember turning my face up to the sky and gulping for fresh, cool air.
And we find ourselves back on the warm spring concrete in Minneapolis.
I cry every time I hear George Floyd call for his mother. Every time. I cry because I know that somewhere, living or dead, George Floyd’s mother hears him calling for her. I cry because every black mother heard George Floyd call out. I cry because every black mother fears that they hear their own son crying out.
I was sitting with my mother for breakfast, underneath a television seeming to replay the film on loop. I saw her dab at her eyes quickly, then it was back to business. In that sliver of a moment I saw the deepest despair. My mother stared into a nightmare in real time. Now in the morning, before the “hello, good morning,” I grab her and squeeze her so that she knows that her son is there.
You witnessed a murder, full stop. George Floyd’s heart stopped a full two minutes before the knee was lifted from his neck. In this moment of our greatest peril, we have seen hatred as the existential crisis that it is.
I could ask you not to call the cops on black people, but I’m not talking anyone into anything at this point. All I can say is that we’re going to have to save each other, because God knows there’s nobody coming to help us. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for you. Don’t do it for George Floyd. Do it for all of us.