#livingwhileBlack


I am not a Black American. I am not a white American. I’m what’s called Brown in this country. There are other less savory names for my people, but I’ll stick with what I find acceptable. Middle Eastern. Arab American. Syrian American. And I’M AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS KILLING UNARMED BLACK MEN.

I didn’t know George Floyd. He wasn’t my neighbor or my friend. In fact, we live in different states. But he was a fellow American. And on May 25, 2020, he was murdered by men sworn to protect him. That was their duty – to PROTECT George Floyd. Every Black man in this country is supposed to be protected by every member of the police force. It is their sworn duty. Yes, even people accused of a crime.

“All men are created equal… endowed with certain unalienable Rights.., among these are LifeLiberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” When these words were written, Black people were not considered human. Today, in America they are still denied these most fundamental rights. A Minneapolis policeman murdered George Floyd. Two other policemen held him down. Another stood and watched. People begged them to let him breathe. The first video I saw was over eight minutes long. Eight minutes. Imagine slowly dying, begging for your life, while people stand by helplessly. My first thought, I wish a white person had been there to try to talk to the police. They might have listened. The white person might have been able to say something without the risk of being next. God knows, a Black person would have been risking their own life to try to intervene.

I’m not white and I’m not Black. So why am I opening up my big mouth? Because George Floyd was a fellow citizen, a fellow human being. And this is my country. If you’re white and you want to tell me that slavery in America wasn’t your fault because your ancestors weren’t here yet, that’s fine with me. We can talk about that another time. But if you’re a white American, I want to know what you’re doing about the institutional racism that exists in our country today. I want to know what we are ALL going to do to stop police officers from killing any more unarmed Black men. Ever. Ever. Ever again.

This country belongs to all of us, but some people have more power than others. Some people have more privilege. Over the last few days, I’ve been listening to Black friends of mine and others on social media call for white people to take a stand. Well, I’m not white. But I’m taking a stand anyway. Because I’m an American. And I don’t want to live in a country where my friends have to teach their children how to try to survive an encounter with the police, knowing full well, that it may be impossible.

It doesn’t even matter if they commit a crime. It can be a traffic stop. A pretext. A $20 bill. There may or may not be culpability. Have you ever passed a counterfeit bill? Have I? I have no idea. Maybe. I’m pretty sure I’d still be alive to write this, even if I had. Even if I was caught. Even if I was culpable. But not George Floyd. Not the millions of Black men and boys living in the U.S. today. Even if you intentionally pass a fake twenty, you still shouldn’t die for it. A sentence that shouldn’t even have to be written.

When the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, it passed because a majority of Americans supported it and a majority of Congress voted for it. That majority was white. So, hey white people. Do us all a solid, will ya? (And by “us,” I mean ALL of us, We, the American people.) Stop shaking your head. Stop asking what he did to bring this on himself. (He did nothing. He didn’t bring this on himself. He was murdered in cold blood.) Stop saying you don’t see color. Stop saying things are better now. Ask a Black American. Are things better now? Are they good? Are they good enough?

We, the American people, just shut down our country, destroyed our economy, and holed up in our homes for two months, altering every single aspect of our lives. We did it to save lives. Mostly the lives of really old people with pre-existing conditions. George Floyd was 46-years old. His pre-existing condition? Living while Black.

I told you what not to do. Here’s what I think you should do. Speak out. Say it’s wrong. Write it down and publish it. You don’t have to get it all right. I probably didn’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we all go on record as AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS KILLING UNARMED BLACK MEN. (Yes, “all lives matter” people, I’m against the killing of unarmed white men too, but I’m not addressing that here because that’s not what’s happening.)

Here’s what else you can do: Support prosecution. Demand prosecution. Demand training for police officers to stop each other before another unarmed Black man is killed. That cop that just stood there? He could have told his buddy to get the hell off George Floyd’s neck and let him breathe.

Call your congressional representatives. They won’t take action? Vote them out of office. Vote for People of Color. Are you a Person of Color? Run for office. Please. Make this your platform. Demand legislation. We could make it a federal crime for a police officer to kill an unarmed man. Is it already a law? If it is, let’s enforce it. If you’re on a jury, convict. If the D.A. declines to press charges, pressure the mayor, protest, vote them out of office.

Say it over and over and over again. I’M AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS KILLING UNARMED BLACK MEN. I’m not going to stop saying it until it stops happening. Let’s make George Floyd the last unarmed Black man in America to die at the hands of the police. And then, let’s keep talking about it. Let’s address the underlying issues. Let’s be the people we say we want to be, the people who live in a country where all people have unalienable rights that our protected by our government. Let’s be the country where no one is held down on the ground with a knee pressing the life out of them, cause of death – living while Black.

 

About LeilaPiazza

I am a wife and mother. I am an Orthodox Christian. I am a Syrian American with family living in Syria. I am a also a yoga teacher and freelance writer. I recently described myself in a job pitch as "a person who's lived in Portland, Oregon for over 20 years with a passion for writing and a passion for all things Portland. I'm a foodie, knitter, wine and beer lover, bee-keeper (yep, I said it), mead and fruit-liqueur maker, organic gardener, home-canner, hiker, biker, runner, and occasional skinny-dipper. I’ve camped all over the state, I sail a sailboat that’s moored on the Columbia (o.k., I'm the first mate), and I spend a large percentage of my time at our beach house in Seaside." That about sums it up.
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