As the country and the rest of the world raged in indignation about police violence against people of color, especially against black people, I was hesitant in taking this hiatus from all the ripping and running I do as a journalist. I felt like I needed a break. But as an African American, you don’t get a break from being black. There is no vacation to absolve yourself from the skin color you were born with. Or all the pain that comes with it.
That’s why I put myself on the frontlines to try to capture this bit of history by covering the unfolding events as I waffled from seeing the entire process through or set sail to take a time out, reset and come back on the scene stronger and better. I decided to make room for peace of mind even though one of the most monumental moments in our nation’s history unfold.
I decided to do both. I hit the streets to see the carnage that was left over in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles from a Black Lives Matter organized march and rally. I drove to Long Beach to check out the city I grew up in where a Black Lives Matter Los Angeles rally was held. And then I spent several days in downtown Los Angeles galvanized by the energy of the people out exercising their 1st Amendment right to free speech.
It has been such a marvelous thing to see. Unfortunately, the protests came with a price tag on them: George Floyd’s life. The demonstrations, fueled by the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died an unceremonious death at the hands of a white police officer, became more about an inferno-like furor over the killings of black people in recent years, and perhaps beyond.
Some may have thought that the protests would be a one-off, something that would be regulated to the streets of Minneapolis, the city where Floyd would breathe his last breath. They thought wrong. People, in utter disgust how Floyd died, hit the streets everywhere. And they kept showing up.
Day after day. America had its linchpin. The country had no idea and was not prepared for the protesting avalanche that essentially paralyzed the nation to its core. Donald Trump, the President of the United States couldn’t stop it. Congress has become nearly invisible during this crisis. Elected officials around the country didn’t really know what to do to slow down the snowball of anger and relenting passion over the violence police have used against black people.
What we have seen on our television screens since Floyd’s death are real-life heroes protecting democracy by demanding that law enforcement personnel be held accountable for their actions. Those heroes look like me. They look like you. The sustainability of the protests, from just about every brokered corner of our country, and from places such as London, Canada, Japan, Spain, and Australia, among others, have made this, especially during an election year, a must-address issue.
Do black lives matter? You’re darn right they do. That’s why people are standing up. This is no longer just an African American problem. It is a global issue. For the United States, the persistent pattern of racism in the form of policing has been put under the microscope for all eyes to fully see. There will be no cover-up on this. The blind eye to police violence against people of color should be no more.
We have had enough! It is painful to witness on video how Eric Garner has life choked out of him by a New York police detective. It took five years for the killer to lose his job. It took the international stage and weeks of upheaval and protests just to bring all four police officers involved in Floyd’s death to be charged. Even with a video that shows one former Minneapolis officer placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
Outrage? There’s plenty of that at the moment. What we have seen on the streets has largely been beautiful. It’s not just black people marching and decrying they have had enough of police brutality. It’s white people. It’s Latinos. It’s immigrants. The Asian community has been out. The LGBTQ folks have been strong in their support of the cause.
There’s been a whole rainbow collection of our fellow men and women boldly stepping out to raise their voices against the continued atrocities. Statistics bear this out. According to Mapping Police Violence, there were 1,098 people killed by American police officers in 2019. African Americans, which represent 13 percent of the general population, accounted for 24 percent of those killed at the hands of law enforcement.
The numbers that Mapping Police Violence come up with shows that black people are three times more likely than white people to be killed at the hands of police. A more stunning number Mapping Police Violence states is that from 2013-2019, 99 percent of the cases that involve law enforcement killing someone, officers escape from being charged with a crime. Blacks are also likely to be killed unarmed by police at a rate higher than either whites or Latinos.
We don’t know all the names. There are too many to count. But more recent victims who succumbed to the violence projected by police include Floyd, Garner, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and the list goes on and on. That’s not even including vigilante justice other citizens have perpetrated against their fellow Americans.
Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old jogger was hunted, shot, and murdered by three white men, is just the latest chapter in this book. Jordan Davis was just a teenager when he lost his life to a white killer because he and his friends were playing their music too loud for him. And who can forget the horrific details of three white men torturing and killing James Byrd Jr? Trayvon Martin didn’t have to die. But he did, and at the hands of a neighborhood watch flunky. His name: George Zimmerman.
The outpouring of justified anger we’ve seen is not limited to the death of Floyd.
Floyd serves as a symbol of all that has gone on to black people without decent accountability, though Byrd’s killers and the shooter of Davis eventually reaped what they sowed. With Floyd’s death and the killing of Arbery, people have reacted strongly, and in unison.
Black Lives Matter.
My life matters. My daughter’s life matters. So do the lives of my four sons. My wife’s life matters. This moment in history has been more than just a wake-up call for America. This is a call to action. Enough talking has been done. Politicians and leaders have talked. We have listened and been instructed that things take time. We’re not waiting anymore.
Anybody trying to court the black vote need not show up during a Sunday morning worship service and give a bunch of lip service while our spirits are in the most vulnerable state. That kind of nonsense is old and tired. And I am sick of it. The black community must grill these individuals who want the black vote.
We have to hold their feet to the fire. Don’t come and ask for my vote on Sunday morning when I am in the middle of praying and trying to get my spiritual life together. There’s a time and place for everything.
If you want our vote, hold a community meeting other than on Sunday morning. The very first question would be simple and straight to the point: What are you going to do in addressing the violence by police against black people? If that is not the first question coming out of the moderator’s mouth, then we are doing everyone a disservice. The black community does not want another dog-and-pony show. We want answers and accountability.
With that said, I am taking some time to reflect and to make sense of all of this bedlam. But while I am doing that, I will still be writing and still consciously aware that I am a black man living in America.