I rode to work in silence last Wednesday. My peace had been disturbed and I was struggling to get it back.
We have been in a nonstop pandemic news cycle for months, story after story of the havoc the Coronavirus has inflicted on all areas of the country.
Now that the cycle has changed, we are being bombarded with more heavy news: a daytime killing of a jogger in Georgia; a woman threatening an avid bird watcher in Central Park that she would call the police and report him being “African American”; and lastly, the event that made me ride to work in silence — the video of a black man being held down on the street by another man’s knee, until he can’t breathe.
THAT should shake us all to our core. Watching a video of a black man being held down on the street by a paid civil servant who vowed to “protect and serve” SHOULD disturb our peace.
The video is nine minutes long; most people can’t make it through to watch the entire event that left George Floyd unresponsive in the street. Many onlookers begged the police officer to let up the pressure on his neck; they called for humanity. Floyd begged and even called for his mother; meanwhile, the officer remained stoic with his hands casually in his pockets not letting up the pressure.
I don’t know exactly what the crime was. There is rumor of a “forgery in progress” — that Floyd was passing a bad twenty dollar bill.
In my heart, I know that the penalty for this alleged crime should not be death on the street. I started to worry. I started to pray. I pictured my husband, my uncles, and my son under that police officer’s knee.
My son is taking this latest event hard, when I got home from work he had written a song about what he witnessed on television.
My son is seventeen and will be a senior in high school this year. He is an honors student, an actor, a Shakespeare and musical theatre enthusiast, a musician, a writer, and he is a child of great faith. He has survived three open heart surgeries and lives with a complex heart defect. He also enjoys making rap music, has hundreds of records; and, I am proud to boast, knows all of the “good” old-school hip-hop.
As I listen to the song he wrote, I worry more, his voice is deeper. He sounds like a man. His words are poetry, articulating his feelings, his observations, his hopes and dreams. The song is the best he’s written and yet I worry.
Will people see all that is inside of him, his many interests and talents? Will they only see a boy in a hoodie that must be up to no good? He is 6’3”. He has a beard. And, thanks to Coronavirus, he is overdue for a haircut. He needs to be protected.
When I made my rounds at work (the same day I rode to work in silence), I stopped in the room of a resident who is not always oriented to time and place. I asked her how she was doing and she replied she was “watching this poor black man in the street” and it was “hurting her heart.”
It gave me comfort and solace that she could see it. I was not alone. I knew then that I had to write this to reclaim my peace.