My parents are from Natchez, Mississippi, and when they moved to Chicago, that segregated city where I was born and raised, they shared with me many horror stories of hangings in Mississippi. Last Monday, on Memorial Day, at 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis, four White police officers murdered George Floyd, a Black man.
Years ago I was told that in Duluth, Minnesota there is statue downtown of three Black men being hung to death by an angry mob of White people. It’s true—it’s a symbol of recognition by the City. I moved to Minnesota in 1978, and guess what. I have chosen to never visit Duluth.
He was handcuffed face down on the ground by three of the officers, who all had him pinned down against the police car. One officer stood and watched while the others used their left knees to hold his body still. One officer, Derek Chauvin, had his left knee on Floyd’s neck and head, casually applying pressure with his left hand in his pocket for almost nine minutes.
It was an execution by knee in broad daylight caught on video. Floyd could be heard pleading for his life. “I can’t breathe,” he pleaded and called out to his mother. Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, three years ago had the courage to take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem. It was in protest to the many police shootings nationally of Black men.
He’s been criticized and vilified by some and praised as an icon in the Black community. His social justice stance hit a nerve, and career sacrifice compares to those of Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe.
He has not played in the NFL since—no team will touch him. The American Dream does not exist for all people, and now taking a knee in Minnesota has taken on a new definition—murder in the second-degree..
Systemic racism and red-lining have long been used to divide. How many times do discrimination and racism lead to violence and innocent Black men pay the price with their lives? This has led to unrest and protest and destruction of property, looting and fires.
This coronavirus pandemic has so far left 103,000 people dead in the U.S., many of them Black, and now we are facing 40% unemployment and a president threatening that “looting leads to shooting.”
Black people have seen enough across this country. Floyd’s murder has continued our pain and fueled anger and frustration with this America that chooses favorites.
What I saw and heard on video of Floyd’s murder was seen by millions around the world. It has since ignited millennials who have grown up believing in better days and hearing their parents talk about marching and protesting.
Do the right thing, they’ve been told, and trust the process. Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, legendary symbols of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, our leaders assassinated.
Black people last saw U.S. legislation in our favor pass in 1964 and ’68 after starting in this country as slaves. That has kept our hopes alive for being treated one day as equal. But it’s 2020 and Black men and women are being killed by police and nothing is being done about it.
We all know that had Floyd been White and the police Black they would all be in jail now facing first-degree murder charges, no questions asked. It’s on video, yet it took nine days for the rest of the officers to be charged after Chauvin was charged. And it took MN Attorney General Keith Ellison taking over the case from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman for those officers to be charged and for Chauvin’s charges to be upgraded from third-degree to second-degree murder.
Since I’ve been in Minnesota, 11 Black men have been killed under suspicious circumstances and controversy. Minneapolis police have gained a reputation for shooting and killing Black men and getting away with it, sometimes yes, on video.
All those years while Amy Klobuchar was Hennepin County prosecutor, she never, not once, prosecuted a Minneapolis police officer. She has let Chauvin get away with previous offenses before—he has over a dozen complaints on his record. His wife is even filing for divorce.
Klobuchar is now a veteran Minnesota senator and could be the next Hubert H. Humphrey candidate to be vice president. Minnesota Nice.