Commentary: Party loyalty shouldn’t keep you from speaking up for black lives

Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement stage a
Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement stage a "die in" outside the National Civil Rights Museum following the annual Martin Luther King Day march in Memphis, Tennessee in 2017. (Photo by Mike Brown/Getty Images)

“Please, I can’t breathe.  My stomach hurts.  My neck hurts.  Everything hurts.  They’re going to kill me.”

George Floyd is dead because four police officers made the unanimous decision that his life did not matter.  With these actions came an unspoken pact that they would defend this use of force at all costs, with full confidence that the thin blue line would do its thing to clear their names.

With the weight of a full-grown man on his neck for nearly 7 minutes, George Floyd was stripped of his right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.  This is not justice.  This is not law and order.  This is murder right before our eyes.  In broad daylight.  Recorded for all the world to see.

Who do we call when the perpetrators of violent and lethal acts are the ones who are supposed to protect us?  How can we continue to question the concerns of members of  he black community who genuinely fear for their safety when the police get involved?  How are we supposed to just stand there and let it happen when the aggressor is carrying a taxpayer-purchased firearm and wears a badge, and the accomplices are members of the same union?

Where are all the “Had I been alive, I would have marched with Dr. King” people?  Where are all the defenders of liberty and justice for all?  Where are the “all lives matter” people?

If your allegiance to a particular political party or membership to a certain church keeps you from speaking out against racism, from fighting for justice for black lives, or from challenging the police’s use of force protocols, then your toxic loyalty is a part of the problem that continues to haunt us.

We thought the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer was the tipping point.  Then we were shocked to see a video of Eric Garner shouting, “I can’t breathe,” while being choked to death by NYPD officers.  Heads turned when the city of Ferguson was all over the news after Michael Brown was killed.  A Chicago PD officer killed Laquan McDonald by firing 16 shots at him within 30 seconds of arriving on the scene.  Then we were heartbroken by the murder of young Tamir Rice and thought he would be the one to move the needle.  Sandra Bland.  Jordan Edwards.  Alton Sterling.  Philando Castile.  

When white supremacists rallied in Charlottesville, and someone was killed, we thought change would come.  Botham Jean was murdered by a police officer in his own apartment.  We laced up our shoes and ran 2.23 miles for Ahmaud Arbery.  Then Breonna Taylor.  And right back to “I can’t breathe,” from George Floyd.

Is this the tipping point, or will we move on and just wait for the next black life to be taken?

This has gone on long enough.  Use your privilege, access, and connections to advocate for change and speak up for those who are hurting.  Listen.  Have compassion.  Do something.

What conversations are you having with your family at dinner?

What books are you reading?

 If your allegiance to a particular political party or membership to a certain church keeps you from speaking out against racism, then your toxic loyalty is a part of the problem that continues to haunt us. 

What people of color are you learning from?

What calls have you made or emails have you sent to your elected officials to get them to use their platforms to advocate for justice and equity?  When those calls and emails are ignored, how are you going to vote in the next election to make sure you are represented by people who care?

Have you contacted your local police department to ask them about body cameras, use of force protocols, no-knock warrants, and racial bias training?

Does your preacher address racism, justice, mercy, and equity through the lens of the Gospel?

There are plenty of ways to stand up and make a difference.  Speak truth to power.  Challenge broken systems.

These police officers must be held accountable for the murder of George Floyd, and the racism displayed here must also be fully recognized.  Call it out. Do something.

George Floyd.  Say his name.  

Black Lives Matter.

Rest in Power.