George Floyd Murder Shows Black Life is Stuck Between Impossible and Inevitable

Two days ago I considered writing an editorial that would have called for historically black colleges and universities to consider helping students to register for gun ownership in the same way that they foster registration to vote, for passports and international travel, and for employment certification.

Surely if our institutions respect their influence in helping students to realize their civic and professional responsibilities, then they should be the hubs for students partially ensuring their own safety.

My father talked me out of writing it, saying that even a covert call for violence would destroy any credibility I had as a journalist or voice on behalf of the HBCU community. I’m glad I listened before the first fires were set in Minneapolis or any other city where black people are considering destruction, suicidal ideation by any measure for sure, as a last resort of civil protest.

People tell us that our lives matter, that our voices should be heard and policies should be changed. Certainly, if the comparison is slavery and Jim Crow, change in aggregate has come to America. But every incident like this gives all black people the reality check that systems at varying levels of influence in our lives are still designed to support black bondage. It works to ensure that we know that we can be pushed back into captivity; if not by law, then by police state militarization and biased criminal justice systems.

George Floyd’s death is no different than the dozens of others that preceded it. The fires of this week are not any less hot than the flames that burned in Baltimore in 2015, in Missouri in 2014, in Los Angeles in 1992, or nationwide in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

There still aren’t enough black people in the population to elect lawmakers who can change our political fortunes. There isn’t enough unity among black people to decide what ‘action’ looks like — is it protest? Is it economic sanctions? Is it armed resistance? Is it diplomacy?

There aren’t enough white people who identify with our cause to impact the systems which benefit them and work against us. And in a plot twist, the racism that we always assumed was in the White House but which never was obvious beyond policy outcomes is in full-throated boasting mode with Donald Trump, whose racism in tweets and deeds will get even more black people killed.

The numbers are impossible for real change, but the need for us to demand it and what will happen if we commit to that demand is inevitable. A call to arms will lead to a military invasion of black communities on American soil. Economic boycotts will cost black people the few jobs that remain in the midst of a pandemic-induced economic depression.

Protests increase the possibility of coronavirus sickness and death among an already disproportionately-impacted black community nationwide. And staying home makes each of us feel like traitors to our God and yearning for a truly native land upon these shores.

So just like every white resident, cop, and elected official has to individually decide to disavow racism, we each must decide if our lives are worth the cause of convincing them to do so. Nothing can force their humanity, nothing can mandate their compassion.

Nothing can guarantee our safety and no one else is responsible for it.

They’re killing us, and our best chances of demanding that we are allowed to live freely will kill us in one way or another.