On George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, and Racial Awakening

As outrage over George Floyd’s murder spreads around the globe, a reflection on my racial awakening.

The day was August 9th, 2014. It was a Saturday.

Like with dreams, I don’t quite remember how it all began, but I will never forget that afternoon, sitting in front of the TV, watching the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death.

I was furious. I was aware of similar instances of police officers killing black men, but this was the one that really got me thinking, particularly about whether or not what happened to Michael Brown could’ve happened to me.

Michael Brown was 18-years-old, I learned. I was 20.

He was described as being very big for his age, 6'4", over 250 lbs, “intimidating”. While fairly slim, I was 6'3", tall enough where “intimidating” can conceivably be used to describe me.

However, I’m Asian, and while we’re often the victims of racism as well, it’s just not quite the same.

Up to that point in my life, I had faced very little racism. Nobody had ever spewed racial epithets or blatantly discriminated against me because I was Asian, so racism was not something I really thought about.

That isn’t to say I wasn’t aware of race, racism, and racial discrimination against Asian people and black people.

I’ve loved basketball and the NBA since the 3rd Grade. Not only is the NBA predominantly black, its players are more political than athletes of other sports. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the Miami Heat were the reason I was aware of what happened to Trayvon Martin. Derrick Rose wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt during pre-game warm-up led me to read more about what happened to Eric Garner. Hip-Hop and Rap played a similar role.

In light of George Floyd’s murder, former NBA player turned commentator Jalen Rose recently said that he wished everyone loved black people as much as they loved black culture. His point was that people who love black culture often only love it when it’s convenient. They love rap music, but don’t actually care about the people making it and what they go through.

Prior to the shooting of Michael Brown, I was one of those people. It’s not that I didn’t care about NBA players or rappers as people, it’s that I just didn’t take the time to understand what it was like to be black in America. I knew that racial discrimination was real, but it wasn’t something I really concerned myself with, something I actively fought against.

The killing of Michael Brown changed things. I don’t think it was anything in particular about the incident. I don’t think it was because NBA players I respected and admired were saying that what happened to Michael Brown could happen to them. I think I just had enough.

Michael Brown should still be alive.

Eric Garner should still be alive.

Laquan McDonald should still be alive.

Walter Scott should still be alive.

Freddie Gray should still be alive.

Philando Castile should still be alive.

Alton Sterling should still be alive.

Breonna Taylor should still be alive.

Ahmaud Arbery should still be alive.

George Floyd should still be alive.

So many of these tragedies have happened that they’ve almost started to blur together for me. My blood continues to boil with word of each new murder. It has gotten to a point where I find it hard to watch videos of these incidents. I still have not watched the video of George Floyd’s final minutes. There shouldn’t have to be video footage for you to be angry.

It doesn’t matter what the circumstances were. It doesn’t matter whether or not they were suspected of being involved in any crimes. They should be alive, but they’re not, in large part because of their skin colour, and the people who killed them have felt little to no consequences, in large part because of theirs.

It shouldn’t only anger you if you’re black and live in America. It’s kind of a cliché for non-black people to resort to Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, but injustice anywhere really is a threat to justice everywhere. The more white police officers get away with murdering black people, the more it becomes normalized, and the more the definition of justice becomes warped.

More people have been angered about the murder of George Floyd than any previous incident. The anger is tangible. Protests have taken place around the world. Perhaps it’s been in part due to everyone finally having a good reason to release their pent-up energy from staying home amidst the pandemic. Or perhaps more and more people have just realized that they’ve had enough. To those people: Welcome. We’re happy to have you.

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I strive towards a career that ends up leaving me somewhere between Howard Beck and Howard Beale.

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