On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed after police were called to an alleged forging incident at a store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Almost immediately, everyone in America began watching the video shot by bystanders and were horrified when George stopped breathing under the weight of 3 Minnesota police officers and another one that stood by controlling the crowd. I felt terrified as I watched the police officers callously kneel on top of him, instructing him to get in the car, and then admonishing him for not being able to. Because of this, they said he was not complying with their commands and continued to cut off his air supply. And finally, the moment came when George stopped moving and you could see that the officers did not care if he lived or died. What came in the aftermath of his death was outrage, fear, and calls for change. Inevitably, the rioting came and with them came discourse that we as a nation could not agree with.
Some have said that the rioting is overshadowing George’s death and undermine the calls for change, but those people must also realize that rioting after a Black person has been killed by police is a part of American history. For those that agree with it, rioting means that Black people are trying to be heard and taking back the power from the police and government by instilling the same fear they feel on them. They want them to feel as helpless as they did. For those that disagree, it means that the destruction is destroying homes and livelihoods while putting actual lives at risk. Although both sides may not see eye to eye, both are contending with real fear and to minimize either side means that the other won’t listen. If they don’t listen, there can be no real change because change is needed by the majority.
Tamir Rice was killed in 2014. Philando Castille was killed in 2016. Eric Garner was killed in 2014. All were unarmed and killed by police and multiple peaceful protests erupted to agitate for change, and yet in 2020, there is still no change. Why is that? We can train police better, have better techniques, and have more body cams, but it is still not preventing any deaths. In truth, any protests peaceful or otherwise will not change the status quo, but protest is still vital because it is an expression of the human psyche. They protest to be treated equally, and to be treated equally, we must change laws and society so that we can be closer to equality. We need opportunities for those who are poor and minorities to have an equal footing. We need school districts equally funded and affordable higher education. We need more social safety nets for all families who are experiencing hunger, homelessness, or abuse. We need affordable medical and mental health care so that we can live. And to get these things, we must stop gerrymandering, Super PACs, and stop all corruption in our government. And to have that, we must get ordinary people to care and the truth is that most of us just don’t care enough.
It’s hard to care when all these millionaires can buy and sell congressmen and big business can write new laws at will. How can the average person take part in change if they have no idea where to start? We can start by not hating each other. If we can stop hating each other long enough to agree on a different future, we can bring about change because we must realize it is our indifference that is killing Black people. However, if we ourselves are not Black, we care a little less. It’s natural to have an affinity for those like us because even babies are proven to choose someone that has the same choices as them. What isn’t natural is letting the killing continue. We must speak out, but at the same time, we cannot tell the other side they are completely wrong, for when we do that, we end up alienating them and lose them even further to the other side.
I myself am Hmong and with the Hmong officer who stood watch during George Floyd’s murder, there have been strong opinions on what should happen to him. My people are mostly outraged that some of their business and homes are being destroyed and they are being targeted for hate because of the Hmong officer. While I may not agree with some of their sentiments, I can’t discount them either. Their fear is palpable and very real, but so are the fears that Black people face every day. All I can do is advocate for what I think is right while still respecting their wishes, because if I don’t, they will stop listening. Whether you are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native, or anything else, you will usually feel more strongly for your own kind, but we must also try to understand each other for we are all in this together. We are not all on the same footing, but we can try to listen to each other because we need them more than we think.