While watching a movie, I heard one of the actors say, “Nothing ever strikes without a warning.” I was dazed in my thoughts as the sucker punch of these words settled in. These words moved me in an unexpected way, because they applied so perfectly to the recent events in Minnesota.
As the horrific image of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of an unarmed and handcuffed black man, George Floyd, plays over and over in my head, my stomach sickens and empathetic tears fill up the wells of my eyes. To chalk this sad incident up to a lack of training or overzealous policing would be disingenuous. What took place in those eight-plus minutes was an open display of what the hatred of systemic racism looks like. One thing has changed; white hoods and robes have been replaced by law enforcement uniforms.
It seems absolutely clear to me that White supremacists are working in police departments across our country today. They are careful to never unleash their hatred for people of color, but inwardly they patiently anticipate the moment and opportunity that they can lash out and unleash their fury on those who they despise more than the dung on their shoes. Too many Black Lives have been lost to those rogue White racist vigilantes who carry out lynchings under the guise of law enforcement.
The officer who murdered George Floyd came with a warning label as red as his complexion as he nonchalantly applied pressure with his body weight on George’s neck without a care in the world and his hand in his pocket. There were 18 warnings. Eighteen times the Minneapolis Police officials were warned about this biased cop by its citizens. He was allowed to continue to wear his disguise and hide in plain sight.
The unfortunate beauty of disguises and masks is that their ability to hide who people truly are often disappoints us when they are exposed. Whether it be racially, socially, or physically, masks can give cover to those who walk among us playing the role of chameleon — hiding hate, discontent and various other prejudices. This cover helps racist cops go unconfronted, unnoticed and often unpunished for their questionable behavior.
Often, we find ourselves blaming the system, but sadly we shoulder some of the blame. I have often been rocked to sleep by promises of change through departmental investigations and findings, only to find myself engaged in the same conversations, self-blame, the feeling that I have missed something and the even sicker feeling that the quest for change has to start over.
When cops commit a racial injustice, society wonders, “How could they do that?” Simply, it is because we let them. Our human nature makes us see people and situations the way we want them to be, not the way they are. We allow others to take advantage, manipulate, and in this case, kill us because we don’t want to believe what our instincts are telling us is true; our senses fail us miserably.
We listen to the same old lines, accept the same dead promises, and continue down the same broken road in hopes that things will change. Racism and racists are alive and well.
Nowadays, where race is involved, we listen to what is being said, but hear something else. We see what they (racists) do and turn our face. Then when the bottom falls out, we quickly want to blame our pain on the other person. We shift our anger to them rather than to accept our own responsibility for the role we played.
As activists for justice, we as people of color, and as a forever hopeful society, often do a poor job of seeing the tedious task of finding true justice, lasting change and reform through to its end.
Over the years, we have settled for broken promises. Civil rights leaders can make all the speeches they want, but unless we understand that our own success depends wholly upon us, we will undoubtedly continue to shed tears and take to America’s streets for lost lives.
To quote Audrey Edwards, “We must move beyond the mindset of powerlessness.” The death of George Floyd must be the spark that ignites all of us to unitize our strength, imploring us to bind together in peaceful but not passive solidarity and serve as fair warning to the White supremacists of America that we will not rest until the justice and reform we seek is granted to not just people of color, but to all marginalized people in our flawed society. Finally, to those in the fight, no one can be held accountable for what you do or don’t do.
Nothing ever strikes without a warning. We have been warned for years. White officers have beaten and killed Black men and women with impunity. Prosecutors and courts warn us that nothing is going to change. Let past actions of old politicians be another warning that a political youth movement is needed. Such a movement is growing and developing for the Black Lives Matter movement. With that, America, consider yourself warned.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.