This was going to be one of those quarantine-fatigue columns where Arts DEVO whines about life in times of pandemic and how all I can muster this week is a slideshow of images and words of gratitude for my comfort. But blathering about one comfortable white dude’s comforting distractions would be a pretty tone-deaf use of column space during a week when George Floyd cried out for his mother as he died in front of our eyes.
On Monday (May 25), Floyd begged Derek Chauvin, “Don’t kill me.” The white Minneapolis policeman and a few of his fellow officers chose to ignore the unarmed black man whose neck was wedged between his knee and the blacktop. Chauvin kept the weight of his body there for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—the last 2 minutes and 53 seconds pressing into a nonresponsive Floyd—as bystanders begged the police to check on him as he faded away in front of them.
This isn’t an alleged incident. Video with audio was recorded by bystanders (and four days later, May 29, Chauvin was charged with third degree murder). Millions have watched and listened. It was a public execution, and Floyd was conscious of the fact, crying out for his mother who’d died two years earlier: “Momma! I’m through.”
George Floyd’s life was squeezed out of him for allegedly using a phony 20-dollar bill to purchase cigarettes.
You can’t be shocked by this, unless you’re shocked at the fact that it’s no longer shocking when a black man is the victim of a disproportionate use of force by a police officer in America.
And if you know that black Americans are killed the hands of police at a rate 2.5 more than whites, you can’t be shocked that Minneapolis is burning. The fact that protests and riots are breaking out is a symptom that there’s systemic racism in this country where police kill innocent black Americans while sleeping in bed and white people call the cops when black folks are doing such mundane things as bird-watching in the park.
As I and other white Americans cope with shelter in place by walking through the neighborhood or running through the park, we do so without the fear that most black people are burdened with while doing the same. That’s our white privilege, and recognizing it is just the first step in doing something to tip the scales of justice. What comes next is to use the power of privilege and show up—spend your time, voice and money to help.
Show up: [Note: Both the following events were canceled by organizers due to security concerns.] at Chico’s city hall Tuesday, Jun 2, 5-6:30 p.m., for a Rally for Justice, and to the Chico City Plaza Thursday, June 4, 4 p.m., for a Racial Justice protest/candlelight vigil.
Donate money or time:
-to Campaign Zero to help end police violence;
-to help justice be served (Minnesota Freedom Fund; Run With Maud; Justice for Desmond Phillips; NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center);
-to support the families of victims (George Floyd Memorial Fund; Ahmaud Arbery fundraiser).
And use your platform of privilege to speak—via bullhorn, via social media or via weekly arts column—to injustice and address inequality that continues to fester in America.
In other words, if you are a white person grateful for the comforts of your life, remember George Floyd crying out for the woman who pushed him into the world as a white cop pushed him out of it, and share some of your comfort with those who might not enjoy such privilege.