By Hazel Trice Edney
Among the first evidence presented by prosecutors in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in his killing of George Floyd is that it was not just 8 minutes and 46 seconds as originally thought, but rather, it was 9 minutes and 29 seconds that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
People in the courtroom and those keeping up with the trial by media would later learn that it was even worse than the 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Moreover, they learned that Chauvin’s knee not only remained on George Floyd’s neck for as long as there was breath in his body; but – according to a pulmonary expert, Chauvin’s knee continued to press into Floyd’s neck for three minutes after Floyd was already dead.
These travesties of justice remain unspeakable to those who cringe or cry every time they hear the suffering of George Floyd as he pled for his life. And as bad as that was, the blows of injustice to the Black community, its parents and children continue to get worse.
In yet another tragic death, Minneapolis has been on nightly curfew as protestors continue to cry out for justice. On Sunday, April 11, only 10 miles away from the location of the Derek Chauvin trial, yet another Minneapolis police officer took out her revolver and shot an unarmed 20-year-old Black man. The death of Daunte Wright was characterized by the then police chief as an accident.
Despite the resignation of the now former Officer Kim Potter, who said she meant to shoot her taser at Wright and the resignations of the police chief and city manager, there is no consolation to Americans – Black or White – who have experienced these non-stop back-to-back travesties against Black people.
So far, indications are that there is seemingly no end in sight for the assaults on the Black community. Even the senseless Windsor, Va. traffic stop of U. S. Army Lt. Caron Nazario a Black and Hispanic man stopped and pepper sprayed by a rogue cop shouting misguided orders has baffled the nation. There is no solace that the cop, Joe Gutierrez, who then lied in his report about the details of the incident, was fired. It is no solace because these travesties of justice happen every day out of the sight of cameras where some of the stories are never even revealed much less believed.
On March 3, 1991, when Rodney King was viciously beaten by Los Angeles police officers, much of America was awakened by the video repeatedly shown on daily news. But across America, Black-owned newspapers have long recorded the trauma of violence against Black people, continuing from the unspeakable cruelties of American slavery. Beginning with Freedom’s Journal in 1827 to journalist Ida B. Wells’ 1895 Red Record documentation of American lynching to Black American newspapers’ Double V campaign during World War II to JET magazine’s 1955 photo of the tortured Emmett Till, regardless of how bad it got, the continued documentation of these evils well into the 21 st Century now proves that it is yet worse than we ever thought.
But there must be an end to this centuries-long nightmare. The blood of those who have recently become household names are crying out, underscoring the indescribable horrors heaped upon them and therefore upon Black people: Trayvon Martin, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, George Floyd – and thousands of others.
And yet, we the people march and protest because we still believe. We still believe that our America, a nation built upon our backs and by the suffering of our ancestors, will someday respect us. We still believe that America, with a Declaration of Independence that promises equality of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”, will someday do right by us. And, even as we acknowledge that it is indeed worse than we ever thought, we still believe that the collective voices and unified courage of Black, White and others together will give rise to answered prayers that will finally end this modern-day civil war.