The killing of George Floyd, athlete, rapper, truck driver, security guard, and father, left me stunned. I grew up in the day of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, and the heroic dream they had for America coincided with my own. Even after both were assassinated, I wasn’t afraid to stand up for equal rights and justice. Nearly sixty years have passed since then. As a U.S. citizen residing overseas from 1994, I was mistakenly under the impression that racial inequality in America was a dinosaur from the past. But it seems a duel pandemic is alive and well in the States—COVID-19 and blatant racism.
These days I live as a minority on the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica where black people comprise the majority of the population. In expressing my horror to our writing group, I said that if I had happened to be in the crowd of bystanders I would have tried to do something to help Mr. Floyd. (What, I do not know.) One of the other members, who is stuck in NYC on account of coronavirus, asked if my gut reaction as an older white lady would have been different if I was black. Good question. Black people from all across America have lamented their castigation at the hands of white society for four hundred years, a sentiment that’s hard for me to understand because I haven’t experienced it myself.
I have two sons in their fifties who live in the U.S. One has worked hard to spin a cocoon of privilege around himself and his family. The other lives hand to mouth in a poor, predominately black neighborhood. Yesterday, #1 asked me why he should care about George Floyd. Today, #2 cried long distance over such a senseless crime. Racial profiling and abuse of power inevitably lead to anger and frustration, and I support the peaceful protesters. But I can’t help but wonder what a crowd of white bystanders would have done if the situation was reversed—if a white person was being abused by black authority? 100,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, and yet the video of George Floyd’s tragic death haunts me. How long will this go on, and how will it end? For Mr. Floyd it ended handcuffed and face down on a Minneapolis street with a smirking cop kneeling on his neck on Memorial Day, 2020.