This week, we got another reminder of the sad state of racial affairs in America after yet another unarmed Black man, George Floyd, was murdered by the Minneapolis police.
It’s the same distressing behavior that has played out repeatedly in our country, over and over again. Floyd’s death, along with the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery and Christian Cooper’s overtly racist encounter with a white woman, has turned the news into a nightmare, with the stories concurrently gaining traction like some unsettling racism trifecta.
The story of George Floyd first came to the public’s attention when a video of the assault was circulated on social media. It shows policeman Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck, pinning him to the ground, as Floyd repeatedly says he can’t breathe. Chauvin doesn’t remove his knee from the man’s neck until Floyd is placed onto a stretcher, later dying at the hospital.
In the aftermath, the four policemen at the scene, including Chauvin, have all been fired and the FBI says it’s opening an investigation into the case. Cue to the bouts of outrage, peaceful protests, and riots. Rinse and repeat. It’s a worrying cycle that’s enough to drive anyone insane from the injustice of it all. It may already have.
The general reaction to Floyd’s death online has, thankfully, been in support of Floyd and his family. However, there’s an unlikely group refraining from defending Floyd: Black women. A small yet disturbing percentage of them are casting off the story, refusing to “cape” for another Black man, in a twisted “they’ve got theirs, I’ve got mine” mentality.
There are a couple of places where this school of thought originates, mostly from bits of information about the victim’s personal life. First, users uncovered a photo of Floyd and a white woman, who was later identified as his girlfriend. Second, a video was uncovered of a reported friend of Floyd’s, former basketball player Stephen Jackson, who unleashed a screed against Black women, calling them bitter and a bigger threat to Black men than the cops.
Interracial relationships are a notoriously complex issue in the Black community, but it’s hardly a reason to write off someone’s murder. Neither does a toxic rant by an alleged friend have any bearing on what happened to Floyd and why.
As a Black woman, my opinion is that this is a blatant disregard for human life. Yet, in some ways, I understand the apathy. Racism is an insidious disease that poisons the well of society. It’s so pervasive that we become bitter and defeated. The sense of defeat endures for so long that we become numb to it.
Additionally, many of these women feel that much of their community is built off the backs of Black women and they often do not feel respected by the Black men they feel a duty to protect. We want to feel free of that duty, just for once. And to have our loyalty reciprocated in turn.
Black women feel the burden of racism just as much as Black men, but are often overshadowed in their plight. Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson — the lack of attention given by the media and the public can result in making us feel as if “Black Lives Matter” isn’t referring to us. The incessant news of racial injustice becomes a trigger that sets off these issues, along with a multitude of other Black women must face. It’s understandable to feel tired.
What I don’t understand is thinking that, because a Black man loves a white woman, Black people shouldn’t stand up against police brutality and racial injustice. There’s no pretending that Black women have no cause in the fight. They have Black sons, brothers, and cousins who could be targeted the same way Floyd was. How does having a white wife or significant other matter? That’s implying he deserved to die simply because he wasn’t with a Black woman. And that, had he been with a black woman, his life would have been more valuable.
This exact mentality is what keeps our community divided and incapable of enacting meaningful change. Communication and understanding are the keys to overcoming all our differences. We need to fix what’s broken in our community or else there will be nothing left to save.
At the end of the day, George Floyd was a living, breathing human being who didn’t deserve to die in handcuffs on the street. That’s more important than who he dated, who he was friends with, or any other random detail about him. His life was equal to anyone else’s and the foremost struggle of our civilization is going to be eradicating any attitudes to the contrary.
As long as we are willing to do it together, there is hope.