George Floyd was a stranger to me until last May. No longer. No longer with us but living in our mind and heart and imagination as the symbol of innocence cut down by racial hate, white supremacy and the violence endemic in our nation’s policing.
I was on my way home with the radio on when the verdict was announced. Pulling into the drive my husband arrived – we looked at each other in silence our faces speaking volumes. His eyes filled with tears as he exhaled, my chest heavy with the import of this historic conviction, heavy with grief, despair, outrage, helplessness and fear. Emotions that have consumed so many of us since his murder. Heavy because as the jury deliberated another Black person was shot by police, this time a child. Despair because this keeps happening. Why don’t they see? What do they see? How can this keep happening? Now it’s become clearer why it keeps happening, something the majority of Americans have been unaware of but that this summer revealed in a way it hadn’t before. It keeps happening because the murdered are Black. Black lives in this country don’t count as much; they are seen as an existential threat, especially if they are Black men. But man, woman, or child, just being Black is enough.
I woke up thinking about trauma. Black families; Black people of all ages; Immigrants; Indigenous peoples; poor people. White people are traumatized too – we may not know it but we are. By the violence, treachery, and cruelty that permeates our society. It affects each of us in countless ways and to different degrees but there is no escaping. Until we face the dark side of our history, until the fantasy myths of our founding are acknowledged, until we begin to repair and explore how to put right the many wrongs perpetuated over time by a culture of supremacy and domination none of us will be free to live the lives given us.
My hope is that a reckoning has begun. That we will find a way, ways we haven’t yet imagined, to face our past, our demons, to face each other and see each other in our full humanity. Then we can explore together what amends look like, to repair and build our communities together, communities based on openness, justice, support and nurture – communities where people can thrive.