The day is July 17, 2014. One week later the Ebola virus will claim its first American life. But today is a warm, summer afternoon in New York City. Today, an African-American father of six named Eric Garner will be murdered by New York Police Department officers. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” will be printed across newspaper headlines, social media hashtags, and t-shirts.
His murderer, ex-officer Daniel Pantaleo, will walk away a free man.
The day is May 26, 2020, nearly six years since Eric Garner took his last breath. The streets are eerily quiet, because earlier in January a new virus outbreak has shaken up daily life. But today is a warm, spring afternoon in Minneapolis. Today an African-American named George Floyd will be murdered by Minneapolis Police Department officers. While being pinned to the ground with a knee to his throat, Mr. Floyd will struggle to mutter the same words that cost Garner his life. “I can’t breathe.”
His murderers, ex-officer Derek Chauvin and his accomplices Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng, will await their trial.
For six years we held our breath, hoping for some sort of systemic change. During that time Michael Brown Jr, Tamir Rice, Christian Taylor, Sandra Bland, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, and many more disturbingly lost their lives. All Black. All murdered by police. Before we could even catch another breath, history had already repeated itself.
How much longer can we hold our breath until we suffocate in our own indifference?
Cases like these are often demoralizing from an observer’s point of view. “Justice” comes from the hands of a system that was not built to serve or protect Black people. Rarely do we see cops receive more than a simple slap on the wrist for their actions.
We often feel helpless. We demonstrate our outrage on social media by yelling proclamations demanding change into a void that doesn’t seem to have a receiving end, but we want to do more. We want to enact change and hold corrupt officials accountable, but how?
It’s not too late to change the narrative. Eric Garner’s murderer may have walked free, but George Floyd’s story should not have to end the same way. Here’s how to help:
- Call Minneapolis District Attorney, Mike Freeman, to demand justice for George Floyd. P: (612)328-5550; E: [email protected]
- Call the mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey, and tell his office, “I want justice for the murder of George Floyd. I demand the prosecution of Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng. This is a racist hate crime and an abuse of power.” P: (612)673-2100 or Leave a comment: https://app.smartsheet.com/b/form/e3bb6dd42bde4315937414f47e8e7d2b
- Stop sharing videos of Black people being murdered, especially if you are not Black. Believe Black people. Imagine being George Floyd’s family and friends seeing his death everywhere. Instead, share the names of the police officers who are at fault, so that people know who to blame.
- Support Minneapolis protestors. Similar to the previous note, stop sharing videos of protestors in Minneapolis whose faces are clearly visible. It could potentially implicate the legal system.
Efforts don’t end there. Here’s how to make strides to end racist policing and reforming our criminal justice system:
- Seek alternatives to calling the police. Search for options that do not endanger you, your neighbors, or those around you. Getting the police involved in any small inconvenience may escalate the gravity of the situation..
- Support mental health programs, drug rehabilitation programs, mutual aid efforts, homelessness centers, and other alternatives to incarceration/punitive justice.
- Get involved. Find organizations and political campaigns in your community that are pushing for criminal justice reform or start your own. No matter how small the effort, one step in the right direction is better than none.
- Know your rights. This could potentially save your life or the life of another person who is being abused by police.
- Listen to Black people. The best way to help vulnerable groups is to listen to their needs and then act. Do not act on behalf of endangered communities.
The day is May 27, 2020. The history of America has demonstrated that police are only here to serve and protect the ruling class. But today is May 27, 2020 across America. Today we take a deep breath and take action.