The Oasis Reporters
May 31, 2020
The “anguish” that former President Barack Obama says he shares about George Floyd’s tragic death, a black man who died in police custody in Minnesota is equally causing immense sadness all over Africa, a continent that the forbears of both Obama and Floyd originate from.
Most Africans who were transported with chains on the neck from one to another across the Atlantic ocean in slave ships by white slave masters was reechoed in the brutal killing by Minneapolis white police officer, Chauvin, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, with the world watching George Floyd groan, ‘I can’t breathe’, until he died.
Floyd’s death has sparked days of protests in Minneapolis with President Trump blaming the unrest on “thugs” in a tweet that was later hidden by Twitter for “glorifying violence”.
But would there have been a riot if a thuggish white police officer hadn’t satisfied his morbid urge to murder a black man, as many white police officers have done over the years, decades and centuries ?
Throughout slavery days, Black people with stoicism masked their pain in negro spirituals. Little wonder a senior black government official in Minneapolis trying to calm angry black demonstrators down, broke into a song, Amazing Grace, How Sweet thy sound. There was no refrain because anger has boiled over.
But listen to this evocative song about a cry to live by a young black boy, Keedron Bryant, whose viral video of a song pleads, “I just want to live, God protect me”.
In playing the role of an elder statesman, as well as in remembering that he too is a black man, Barack Obama shared “parts of the conversations I’ve had with friends over the past couple days about the footage of George Floyd dying face down on the street under the knee of a police officer in Minnesota.
The first is an email from a middle-aged African American businessman.
“Dude I gotta tell you the George Floyd incident in Minnesota hurt. I cried when I saw that video. It broke me down. The ‘knee on the neck’ is a metaphor for how the system so cavalierly holds black folks down, ignoring the cries for help. People don’t care. Truly tragic”.
Another friend of mine used the powerful song that went viral from 12-year-old Keedron Bryant to describe the frustrations he was feeling.
The circumstances of my friend and Keedron may be different, but their anguish is the same. It’s shared by me and millions of others.
It’s natural to wish for life “to just get back to normal” as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly “normal” — whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.
This shouldn’t be “normal” in 2020 America. It can’t be “normal.” If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.
It will fall mainly on the officials of Minnesota to ensure that the circumstances surrounding George Floyd’s death are investigated thoroughly and that justice is ultimately done. But it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station — including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day — to work together to create a “new normal” in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts”.