Floyd: “I can’t breath, my face… Just get up.” More labored breathing.
Chauvin, visibly annoyed, responds: “What do you want?”
Floyd insists more loudly: “I can’t breath! Please, your knee in my neck.”
Chauvin: “Well, get up and get in the car, man!”
Floyd: “I can’t move!”
Chauvin repeats the command.
Floyd: “Mama— I can’t.”
Floyd says he can’t breathe once more, and then again, repeating himself until his body goes limp.
I meant to write this post days ago, but couldn’t. Each passing day brought a new chance to fool myself into thinking I’d be strong enough to watch the full video of George Floyd’s murder. I wasn’t, and I still haven’t. But I tried again today anyway.
The constant cries of a tortured man grow more and more desperate, echoing the suffering of generations of black people before him and forcing me to stop the video, because I can’t bear to hear it any longer. And then I start to think: If I can’t even bring myself to watch it, how must his friends and family feel? How could it have felt to see their loved one, a grown man, beg for his late mother, who passed a full two years before? To slowly see the light of his soul flicker and dim with each strained breath?
I feel anger. A hot, bubbling rage mixed with tears and desperation. How did this man, no, this murderer named Chauvin almost get away with it… walking freely as if he hadn’t just killed a person over a trivial offense. One thought leads to another and then, inevitably, to the ultimate question: How do they all get away with it?
It’s dark and uncomfortable to think that the majority of Americans have gotten used to seeing videos of police officers killing black people. How sickening that we seem desensitized to the sight of a man shot in his car over a broken tail light or of a young jogger cornered and eventually slaughtered by white men with guns. But what we may not have realized is that these graphic videos were building rage inside of us all this time, a rage that recently exploded into the real world.
The video that broke me was of the death of Eric Garner. Similar to Floyd, Garner, a large man you’d assume would require multiple men to knock over, asked for air before he passed. His cries of “I can’t breathe” shook me; I couldn’t get out of mind the fact that he spent his last few breaths begging. Those precious final gasps were wasted on pleas that were callously ignored.
I am infuriated — and I carry this anger as my tool to change it all. I vow, as a woman with privileges, to never stop fighting for the entire African-American community today, tomorrow, and into the future.
The following images and video are from local protests I attended. (Yes, it’s true that we’re still in a pandemic. But the need to have our voices heard is also dire.) Each protest I attended was peaceful and a vast majority of those present were wearing masks. Many marched in the streets while others offered water, snacks, squirts of hand sanitizer, and masks in solidarity. All photos were taken in Washington, D.C., and the video was filmed in Arlington, VA.