George Floyd Deserved to Breathe Free | Sojourners

George Floyd Deserved to Breathe Free

Flowers are seen at the site where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller

I can’t breathe.

These were George Floyd’s desperate cries for help as he gasped for breath and clung to life due to the senseless brutality of four police officers in Minneapolis, one of whom, Derek Chauvin, had his knee and weight crushing Floyd’s neck.

I’m having a hard time breathing today. I have been fighting back tears of anguish and righteous indignation all night and day since I first watched the graphic and gruesome video of Floyd’s murder, which has now gone viral and is grabbing headlines. I can’t breathe today because for 9 long minutes, 540 excruciating seconds, George Floyd and a number of bystanders literally begged for his life while officers ignored them and treated his life as though it didn’t count or even matter.

Floyd’s brutal death brings back chilling flashbacks to Eric Garner, who was also suffocated by police officers in New York City due to an illegal chokehold. George’s death feels like too much, adding insult to injury as the black community deals with the trauma of losing such a disproportionate number of loved ones due to COVID-19 and now has to see what feel like almost daily reminders of our dehumanization.

As a father of two black sons, I can’t breathe today because I refuse to accept a law enforcement system that so often treats black bodies as being presumed guilty or an immediate danger. Will George Floyd’s death finally be a tipping point in public consciousness and outrage that has been so elusive, when enough of us demand police accountability and declare definitely that black lives matter?

But a tipping point requires allies. It requires that we all speak out and take action in courageous and tangible ways. Otherwise, there will likely not be justice for George Floyd and his family and we will squander this moral imperative to prevent and ultimately end these senseless and brutal deaths.

I can’t breathe today because none of us should feel able to breathe fully or easily in our nation until all of us are able to breathe free from the evils of racism and police brutality.