George Floyd’s killing, engulfed by the arms of racism with the perennial knee that has congested itself on Black existence for generations is an image the world will never forget. Black people articulating the suffering, outrage and frustration they have experienced have rightfully consumed media and topics of conversation across America. Those who have kneeled in solidarity and used their platform to cry for change are appreciated.
However, many people have failed to realize that the necessity of the Black Lives Matter movement is not a socratic seminar open for discussion.
“What happened to George Floyd is horrible but…” is a phrase I’ve read on multiple occasions on various social media platforms.
Why does anything that comes after the “but” appear anything close to more important than the murders of innocent people?
The word “but” cannot be used to lessen the traumatization of the unjustified murders of Black people any longer. When someone is grieving, telling them “I realize you’re hurting, but…” is a degrading and absolutely inappropriate way to address the circumstances.
How the Black community’s pain falls short of enough nuance for some people is not just privilege itself. To word it generously, those people are unfortunately just socially incompetent. However, even worse than that are the people who use the word “but” from a position of bigotry.
It is not the situation to counter-argue with grief and those who are suffering. Listen to understand. Realize that being able to listen is a privilege and a way to respect and sympathize with the Black community.
It’s disappointing that it took this long for Black subjugation, shame and trauma to be acknowledged in the public light. It’s disappointing that no one is sure that this uproar will even cause any change in a system that’s been specifically designed to suppress, gaslight, oppress and dismiss its very existence.
Although those at the top of the totem pole of influence need to learn to trickle down their privilege to those who have been burdened by America’s empty constitutional promises, there are ways you can help. Steering conversations to prompt change, demanding history classes to be a de-fluffed representation of America and taking a strong stance to present the justice our future generations deserve is a start.
Common decency should clearly show that Black people are constantly in a state of injustice in the hands of a merciless system. Debates about “I can’t support it because” need to be changed to “this is how I can help.” Insincere, close-minded arguments disguised as public engagement need to be transformed into difficult, open conversations about a complicated problem we as a country have ignored for centuries.
We must remember why we are protesting for the Black community in the first place. These protests are not only for George Floyd — they’re for every Black person who has had to live day after day in a traumatic reality.