The truth stops me.
In my search to understand how another black man can be wrongly killed by a police officer, I am confronted by an answer that horrifies me.
I go to the video that plays clearly in my mind: The officer casually grinds George to death. Please, tell me this isn’t happening again.
But it is.
That is when I ask the question again – the question I asked when I looked at photos of black men lynched and heard how Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, (and a long list of others) were all killed: Who could do such a thing?
I’ve always asked that question thinking it was the evil or stupidity in others that resulted in an entire race of people being diminished as human beings. Until now.
I’m a 6’5” white male. I have long known that when I walk into a room filled with other people that I benefit from privileges others don’t have. I’ve worked hard to reconcile the advantages I have and not grossly mismanage them. But I haven’t worked hard enough. In fact, my lack of effort is appalling and insulting to humankind.
Drunk with the illusion that I’m a moral person, I’ve operated with ignorance and relative, sickening silence. I have benefitted from – and therefore participated in building – a system that is wholly unfair. Because of my weakness and tolerance, a culture has been perpetuated that schemes against those who merely have a different color of skin.
It was my knee on George Floyd’s neck.
My ego rushes to defend me and declares that the system brought us to the Derek Chauvin moment; the system is to blame for the median white family having 10x the wealth as the median black family; it’s the system’s fault that a job resume with a traditionally white-sounding name is 50% more likely to get a call back than a person with a traditionally black name.
But blaming the system would be an act of privilege. Pointing my finger at anyone other than me would be another attempt to deflect the truth: I have not been accountable to values I champion and the integrity I crave.
Another person is killed because they don’t look or talk or think like me…who could do such a thing?
It was my knee. I am the system.