The video of Floyd's death reignited the collective trauma of another black man murdered by overzealous police.
Trigger Warning: Violence against Black Folks, Racism, Murder
In 2014, America echoed with the sonic boom of three words: "I can't breathe." Across the country, demonstrators flocked to the streets to protest the death of Eric Garner, a black man who was killed by a white police officer using a prohibited chokehold. It would be several months before New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo is indicted for Garner's murder. Though he was terminated from his job after numerous disciplinary hearings, he was never criminally persecuted. At the time, the country was inundated by news headlines, interviews, social media posts, and more about Garner's death. They all chanted, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't breathe." Switching the television on was a game of Russian roulette - who would be next?
Therefore, when George Floyd's murder flashed across my TV screen and all my social media feeds, I felt a ball in the pit of my stomach. A flaring heat in my eyes. A numbness in my palms. It was a physical repulsion. Floyd's death is a tragedy, but it is also the constant torture by association for black folks in White America. Of course, black folks are forced to confront the idea that any day could be their last if they come across a white officer with a shaky trigger finger, but they are also deeply submerged in the murky waters of violence against their communities. Every news channel you watch is more than happy to air the video of white Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin's knee on his neck.
Nobody cares about the black kids who have to see their brother being murdered, again and again, on national TV. Nobody cares about the trauma of headlines that bring back the memories of another black brother's death. Nobody cares about what it means to see a body, very much like yours, lying lifeless on the street because it didn't walk, look, or breathe white enough. Nobody cares about the very real pain that a person of color experiences when violence is shared without warning. Because we love seeing black bodies brutalized, don't we? It took a viral video for Ahmaud Arbery's murderers to finally be held accountable. It took evidence of a dead black body, viewed by every single pair of eyes in the United States, for our justice systems to feel compelled to act.
That shouldn't be the case. For Garner's mother Gwen Carr, the video of Floyd's lynching - because that is exactly what it was - was chock full of parallels to her son's death. "It was déjà vu all over again," she said in an interview with NBC. "It's like a reoccurring nightmare." Floyd, like Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and the thousands of black men and women who have come before and will come after them, is not just another dead black body. He is not just a statistic. For those of us watching on TV or scrolling on our timelines, it would be easy to ignore their deaths if they were just another number. But they are real human beings, and being forced to grapple with their bloody murders is a collective trauma that we (and black folks especially) may not soon be able to avoid.