First, I want to tell you how I stumbled across your name this morning. I had tried to avoid the video of police killing George Floyd and too much about the case because I just wasn’t emotionally in a space to take it in. I couldn’t take any more videos of Black Death. Then I saw the videos of protesters getting tear-gassed when just weeks ago white men with guns and masks were more threatening, more irate, more disrespectful to police over reopening the country and they saw no tear gas or arrests. Judeah, that’s an example of white supremacy and an example of how this country protects whiteness at the expense of Black people. So I started looking up George and his story. That’s where I saw your name.
I read that you witnessed the police with their knees on his neck. I read that you heard him in those last moments. I also read that you woke your mother up and told her, “Mom, they had his knee on his neck and they killed him.”
I also saw that you told the reporter that “All the adults kept saying, ‘Get off him.’”
There’s something about the word “adults” in that sentence that rattles loose parts of my chest. The word sounds like you were watching the chaos and were looking for adults to fix things. The word tells me that there was a moment there where you believed grownups would make it right and that George would get up and be fine. The word tells me that at nine years old, your life has changed forever.
Judeah, I’m writing you to tell you that I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that you were born into a world that can’t protect you from seeing bad men do bad things to people like George because of the color of his skin. I’m sorry that you and too many Black girls like you have to see the worst of us far too early. I’m sorry that we keep failing you. I’m sorry that we don’t fight for Breonna Taylor like we fight for Black men. I’m sorry that even as young as you are, you’re two years older than Aiyana Jones.
I want to tell you that you were braver than children your age should ever have to be. I want to tell you that it’s okay for you to be scared, sad or hurt in ways you don’t understand as you try to work your way through what has happened this week. I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now.
But. I want you to know that no matter how those bad men in those uniforms treated George and how their treatment of George made you feel, you hold more power and value than those men will ever have. Those bad men can never make you less than the wonderful Black girl you are. No man can.
Judeah, you are loved. There will be times you don’t feel like it. Today may be one of those times. But I speak for an entire community of people who have seen your story and want to support you. We are here to remind you that there is no weight you will have to carry alone. There is no knee strong enough to weigh down the people who stand with you to carry your burdens to the finish line.
I’m not going to lie to you. There will be more bad men. Some will look like those bad men who hurt George. Some, sadly, will look like me. There will be more men like George and more women like Breonna. For that, again, I am sorry. But I can promise you that we are fighting to change that reality. We are clawing, climbing and resisting for a world where future nine-year-olds don’t have to see the things you saw or have to be superheroes like you are.
I don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, but I want you to know that you can still live that dream. Nothing and nobody can stop you. They will try. You know that better than anyone. But you also need to know that you are bigger than any obstacle, stronger than any barrier, and greater than any villain. You are the future. I believe in you. We believe in you. We are with you every step into your continued greatness. Because you are a Black girl. And you are as magical as you’ve always been. And half as magical as you will be tomorrow.
David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and adjunct professor of Journalism at Morehouse College. David’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Smoking Section, Uproxx, Playboy, The Atlantic, Complex.com and wherever people argue about things on the internet. Read more of his work on NewsOne here.