A day after watching the Mr. Rogers biographical film starring Tom Hanks, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I woke up to a stuffed Twitter feed denouncing the racism in the United States.
This is not unusual. If you watch the news, you likely need more than ten fingers to count the number of innocent black men killed by white civilians or police officers in recent years. But there was something off about this breadth of racism compared to recent days. It’s come during a pandemic, where COVID and quarantine fill our minds and headlines, most recently how we must act when tired of social distancing guidelines despite consistent numbers of new cases. It’s the day after a holiday weekend honoring our military personnel, a day some refer to as the start of summer. And of course, President Donald Trump was tweeting again — this time misinformation on voter fraud.
In one corner of the country, four Minnesota police officers were caught on tape for their involvement in killing a black man, George Floyd, on Monday night. “Involvement” is a nice word to use as the internet floods with videos of a police officer choke holding Floyd to death. The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis urged the public “not to rush to judgment and immediately condemn our officers.” Someone thought they were worth judging. The four officers have been fired.
This happened on Memorial Day. Tuesday morning, I wake to the news of George Floyd next to the news of Amy Cooper. While on a walk with her dog this morning in Central Park, Amy Cooper approached a man who asked her to put her dog on a leash. There are signs requiring dogs to be leashed in this area of the park. Amy Cooper said no, and after an untaped exchange, she called police, purporting that “An African American man is threatening me and my dog.” The man, Christian Cooper (no relation), caught it on tape, agreeing that she should call the police. He was no where near her. Actually, Amy was the one getting closer to Christian. Christian posted the video on his Facebook. And in a day, Amy Cooper was fired from her job, she surrendered her dog to the Rescue agency where he was adopted, and she told CNN “my life is being destroyed.”
Moreover, in trending news, someone resurfaced an old Saturday Night Live clip from the year 2000 displaying Jimmy Fallon in a sketch where he impersonates Chris Rock — in ‘blackface.’ Fallon apologized on Twitter. I always wonder why celebrities don’t admit their mistakes before the public finds out. It’s a lesson I once heard from Barack Obama, who admitted to smoking in college, because admitting it takes away the power from someone else doing it.
This is a day in the life in 2020. In the midst of a pandemic, where the nation cannot agree that staying inside or wearing masks is the right thing to do. In a pandemic where 100,000 U.S. citizens have died from COVID so far this year, where people are losing their minds in loneliness, staying indoors, having to work and also home-school their kids; not even now will our prejudice, egos, racism, and hypocrisy slow down.
I don’t know what it means to be a black man in America. But I have an idea how not to be white in America. It starts with owning up to your privilege and truly seeing black people as human beings no different than yourself. It’s about admitting that you and your friends might not actually believe black people are equal to you even though you think you’re not racist.
Here’s a test. Have you posted anything about the injustice? Have you been having hard conversations about racist people you know or what’s happening in the news? Have you ever defended Philando Castile or Terence Crutcher in a conversation? If the answer is no to any of these, you must do more.
Even Amy Coopers vote democrat. Not all police officers have the community in mind. Racism thrives in America.
RIP George Floyd.