Esau McCaulley gets to the core again as he unpacks the trial of Derek Chauvin, convicted yesterday in the murder of George Floyd.
The United States demands too much wisdom from Black parents. We must walk that fine line between telling the truth about how cruel America can be toward Black bodies and souls and the hope that our children can be their free Black selves. America requires too much of its clerics, who must minister, console, lead and organize a people weary of Black death.
While I find myself in a new “culture” (meaning, part of the country) in the past three years, I find that whether I lived in Minneapolis, MN or now deep in the heart of Dixie, I have to stay at definitions and explanations with white friends who simply refuse to listen to the trauma of Black America.
George Floyd’s death actually shook my Southern white friends. They were in shutdown mode at the time due to COVID, so they were pretty much forced to watch a police officer kneel for 9 minutes on the neck of a black man while the black man begged for his life. (Then, during the trial, we were reminded with deep horror that the last THREE MINUTES that Derek Chauvin stayed on the neck of George Floyd were THREE MINUTES George Floyd was either actually dead or so near death that it was just simply cruelty that kept that knee in place.)
But, as life as somewhat returned to normal, these friends returned to their default mode. (And I note here that I would have to listen to the same stuff from friends in Minnesota if I were living there as well.) The default mode began to blame George Floyd. “If George hadn’t done this…” “If he had done that…”
I had one guy send a diatribe of an email as to the legality of the counts against Derek Chauvin and concluded with all his legal expertise (he was a retired lawyer) that Chauvin should walk. He shouldn’t be a cop, but really… this was Mr. Floyd’s undoing and it’s just too doggone bad.
Then, when the verdict was read, the only words I’ve heard to this point from friends like this have been what Maxine Waters said at the end of the trial…
Maxine Waters… a BLACK congresswoman… said something that these WHITE friends were offended at… thus justifying the possibility that Chauvin’s defense attorneys could appeal the verdict.
And then we wonder why black people are exhausted… and angry… and avoiding us.
McCaulley goes on:
There is a version of Black pessimism that says that all that remains is the struggle itself, a shouting into the darkness that our lives matter but real change is impossible. There is a version of Black pietism that assumes our only hope is the sweet by and by, in which God swoops in at the end of all things to solve our problems. But there is a third way, rooted in the idea that a just God governs the universe, and for that reason, none of our efforts are in vain.
We, as whites, keep demanding that Black America explain themselves. We, as whites, get tired of their Black resistance because we just want to “get back to normal.” There was even one “conservative” pundit who opined that Chauvin was found guilty and was glad because he didn’t want his neighborhood looted.
Trauma is continually placed on Black America because we set the bar impossibly high for them to “prove” something, when we get easily offended at a Black Congresswoman talking about “confrontation” and just flat out assuming she means “violence.”
The Derek Chauvin verdict was not justice. It was accountability. Justice is still the long haul, and we don’t need to keep making Black America be the ones carrying the entire burden of that journey.
Last year I recommended simple steps for learning more about racism because we seemed to be in a moment where learning was possible. I was a fool for believing that.
But, I continue on. It’s not about anyone else understanding, it is ME working to walk alongside my brothers and sisters and finding ways to act on their behalf.
This year I will work in this way: to find areas where I can advocate for better legislation. In Alabama, we have some of the most restrictive voting regulations designed to keep “those people” from voting in the nation. Honestly, we’re upset with Georgia but they still have a ways to go to catch up to Alabama.
Also, to advocate for better law enforcement accountability.
Also, to advocate to other areas of service where people of color are under-served.
It is to ACT. As Esau McCaulley writes, even if we work hard and things seem in vain, they are not. It is hard work we must do.