I am reading Edward Baptist’s book “The Half Has Never Been Told.” If you have heard me mention my reading this book before and you wonder if I am a slow reader, rest assured I most certainly am not. I devour books. However, this book is ripping my soul out each and every time I read a page.
Baptist has done extensive research and, through his words, has painted vivid pictures of what our ancestors endured. I read one or two pages and then can’t return for days. But return I must. After every rip, comes immense pride of my heritage, our compassion and strength.
One passage notes that, routinely when male slaves were cuffed together in chains and driven for miles to a new destination to be sold, they would not be allowed to stop and relieve themselves. When this happened, female slaves would look away as they did so, to spare them shame. Male slaves did the same for female slaves. This small act showed that, no matter what, our instinct is to care for each other. As I watch the trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed Mr. George Floyd, and listen to witnesses sobbing and sharing their feeling of helplessness in seeing the brutality of Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, I feel my soul being ripped yet again. This trial serves as a poignant reminder that while slavery is gone, it’s devastating and deadly remnants still end in the same conclusion: our senseless death.
A forensic pathologist testified at the trial that Mr. Floyd died from heart problems. While I don’t believe what the pathologist attested to for one minute, I do believe that Mr. Floyd suffered from heart problems. It’s the same type of heart problem that all of us African-Americans suffer from in this country: Knowing that each and every day we risk death, simply by breathing. My heart and the hearts of my fellow brother and sisters are shredded at the continuing injustice we suffer at the hands of the police. Heart problem? but for the actions of Officer Derek Chauvin, Mr. Floyd would still be alive. So, while Derek Chauvin was convicted, what this continuing disregard for our lives has done to us can’t be remedied by one instance of an officer being held accountable. I am not sure what it would take to make me and lots of other African-Americans feel vindicated. However, I can assure you the conviction of an overwhelmingly guilty officer is not it. That’s not even close. I now direct my attention to the other officers who took an oath to protect and serve, yet failed to intervene to stop Chauvin. Reform the police, dissect this police culture of "brotherhood above all else" and create real policies to stop this from happening. Now, that’s what I am waiting to hear but I am not holding my breath. Or maybe I will. For nine minutes.