George Floyd lies face down with a knee pressing into his neck. It’s the knee of a white law enforcement officer abusing his badge. A deaf, xenophobic sociopath getting his rocks off by squeezing the trachea of a man who is not fighting back but begging for his life.
I say Mr. Floyd lies face down as I stop the video replay here. In my mind I kneel at Mr. Floyd's shoulder. Powerless to lift that knee of oppression from his neck, I focus instead on what he is saying just before he expires.
“Please, I can’t breathe.” “Everything hurts.” He calls for his mother.
As a nursing student in my hometown of Philadelphia in 1970, I first worked the men’s wards, populated by men of color, often homeless from skid row. Later I worked the Intensive Care units for cardiac or neuro patients, no men or women of color there. With vivid clarity I recall asking my clinical instructor why aren’t there any black people in here? A shrug and weak, “I guess they are not sick enough.”
And so it continues for African Americans: health care inequity, police brutality, voter suppression, job discrimination and criminally poor educational opportunities.
This is what I know.
“Thoughts and prayers” are an obscenely tone-deaf response to the anguish of Mr. Floyd’s family. To Mr. Arbery’s family. To Breonna Taylor’s family. And all the others lost to senseless, unnecessary violence in the name of the law.
Congress! Take a knee. America has had enough of your inability to implement meaningful and permanent change. We are, all of us Americans, exhausted by non-existent leadership, sycophantic support of a purulent president and partisan angst. We don’t want another committee. We want action.
Put money where your mouth is. Right Now. You just coughed up trillions of dollars, much of which went to wealthy banks, businesses and corporations as a result of Covid-19. Time to send the same amounts to our cities and counties to put change into action.
Action! Let’s identify and demolish one injustice now so that our young citizens will understand we are sorry for the fearful nightmare we have burdened them with during this year of 2020.
You hear the people chanting, “say his/her name.” Go with that.
50 States/ 50 Schools Reparation Fund.
Each state chooses an elementary school that is in dire and urgent need of replacement. You know, the mold and vermin infested, technology deficient ones that pass as educational facilities for our tiniest students of color.
Tear them down. Right now.
Black architects matter, Black contractors matter, Black plumbers and electricians matter. Black masons and Black painters. Black artists and Black educators. Black religious leaders. Let their creativity and ingenuity have expression.
There are resources to spare in our communities where blacks and browns and all colors can join together to make a school rise from the ashes to educate, serve and protect. Equal education. Everyone can and should support that.
A secure school where mothers can safely send their children. A school where children have access to the most current technology, to the arts and the sciences. A school that honors the real truth about American history by honoring those whose lives were sacrificed to racism and injustice.
George Floyd Elementary School.
Ahmaund Arbery Elementary School.
Breonna Taylor Elementary School.
Say my Name. Every Blessed Day.