I don’t remember when my innocence died as a Black person. I’m from St. Louis, and I grew up hearing about people killed at the hands of the police my entire life: of Black people dying under suspicious circumstances, of hangings that allegedly weren’t hangings, but suicides. These things didn’t make sense, but if you pointed that out, you were the crazy one, the “real racist,” because you might have hurt someone’s feelings.
Growing up, my whole goal, from age 6 on, was to avoid being “a statistic.” I didn’t curse. I didn’t get into fights. I denied myself joy. I shrank myself. I didn’t retaliate when I was bullied. I didn’t fight back. Because nobody cares about statistics. People hear numbers and problems seem insurmountable, so why do anything?
Reportedly, 1,127 people died at the hands of the police in 2020. But do you remember them? Even if you’re encouraged to “say their names”? You might remember George Floyd because he was the one you couldn’t escape. He was murdered in a pandemic when, for most of us, our only friends were our TV sets, and the images were relentless.
For more than nine minutes, for a summer, for an eternity, we watched a man die. Over and over. We heard him cry out for his mother. We heard others try to intervene. Try to appeal to humanity for someone whose killer clearly did not see him as human. And yet, no matter how many times you watched this proof of murder, the ending was always the same. Floyd died and the man who killed him, Derek Chauvin, was as immovable as the systems he represented.
Chauvin will go to prison for what he did. He will be punished. But is this justice? Or is this a type of liberation that still isn’t freedom? Because as I cry tears of relief, I still mourn. What of George Floyd’s freedom? What of George Floyd’s innocence? Did he ever truly have it, experience it before he died?
Because whatever semblance or shape or form of innocence I had, it died before I even knew what it was. It was dead before I was born. Dead like Emmett Till. Dead like Mike Brown. Dead like Sandra Bland. Dead like Breonna Taylor.
Freedom is not freedom until everyone is free. Justice is not justice until it is accessible to all. While I am grateful justice was delivered in Floyd’s case, so many more injustices remain delayed or denied, both visible and invisible to the public eye.
This content was originally published here.