Smart Living Why Witnesses Should Not Have to Apologize for Not Saving George Floyd
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Heather McGhee is the Board Chair of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, and the author of the new bestselling book.
Nobody is wholly good or wholly bad, and yet one of the subtle distortions of racism is projection—I can paint some“Other” with the qualities I don’t like about myself, and right becomes wrong, victim becomes perpetrator. I thought about projection as I watched Day Two of the Derek Chauvin murder trial yesterday and kept reminding myself not to echo many commentators in calling it the“George Floyd trial,” because, not the one whose motives, actions and background warrant examination.
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of the bystanders, though, the handful of Minneapolis neighbors who had been going about their days when the world stopped. Video showed they’d been wearing the clothes you work out in or run errands in—leggings and sweatshirts, flip-flops and sandals with socks, a nine-year-old girl in a t-shirt that read“LOVE.”
As I listened to their emotional testimonies, I reflected on the human superpower that is empathy, the superpower that racism tries to choke off. Empathy led these innocent bystanders to wrack themselves with guilt following Floyd’s killing. Darnella Frazier, the Black teenager whose cell phone video recording ricocheted around the world, admitted:“It's been nights I stay up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for...not saving his life."
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The white off-duty firefighter, Genevieve Hansen—a woman trained to run towards danger to save lives—“was desperate to help” Floyd. She said that she tried various approaches to get Chauvin to move and let her give the victim medical care, ranging from“calm and reasoning” to“assertive” to pleading. Nothing worked. On the witness stand, she broke down and cried.
Donald Williams II was trained in martial arts and wrestling. He was likely strong enough to have freed the man he watched die, but was undoubtedly aware it would have cost him his Black life, too. Yesterday, as Chauvin’s attorney repeatedly asked this Black man if he was“angry,” Williams said he showed“controlled professionalism.” He said it calmly, but with the conviction of so many Black men who have to suppress their humanity in a world that doesn’t see it.“You can’t paint me out as angry.” He, too, wiped away tears on the stand.
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As I watched these bystanders admit their anguish about not doing enough, I thought about the rest of us. Because of young Darnella’s video, we also bore witness to the unbearable.
When George Floyd used his last breaths to call out for his mother—who had died two years before—he summoned mamas around the world into the streets, including me. It felt like the least we could do. Nonetheless, millions of us doing the least we could do added up to the largest social demonstration movement in American history. Like the Minneapolis neighbors who bore witness that day, we were Americans of every background. Despite the media sensationalism,, free of property damage or clashes with the police. But it still didn’t feel like enough.
As I settled in last night for what would be a restless sleep, I couldn’t shake the stories of young Darnella, of Donald and Genevieve. I’ve spent the last three years writing about the hidden costs of racism to us all: the traumas that radiate out beyond the intended victims and the ways that racism in our politics and laws leads to dysfunction and needless suffering. In the middle of the night, I lay awake wondering: What are all the laws and institutions that stop us from being able to do what our humanity cries out for us to do? To protect one another, to cherish the lives of our neighbors? Despite the majority of citizens wanting the power to sue people who abuse their badges, qualified immunity, which shields officers from civil liability, remains on the books.
We are all bystanders. How are we going to take our stand?
Floyd Mayweather's induction into Hall of Fame delayed until 2022 .
With 2020's ceremony also postponed due to the pandemic, three classes will now be celebrated in The Hall of Fame Weekend Induction Trilogy in Canastota, New York, from June 9-12 next year.Mayweather, who won 11 world titles with a 50-0 undefeated record, was announced in December as a first-ballot nominee for the Class of 2021.