If you are Black and you’ve chosen to turn off the TV, social media discussions and mute imagery from the Derek Chauvin murder trial, there is space for you here.
America has desensitized death, and Black death specifically lies at the center of this harrowing ritual. State sanctioned violence is founded within the grains of our society, not just domestically but globally.
Optioning to turn away from routine, systemic violence against people who resemble you or your family members should be championed, and that in itself is a tragedy.
The first week of the Derek Chauvin trial came to a close on Friday, filled with triggering moments as witnesses and the country again recalled the last moments of George Floyd‘s life. Where he begged for mercy, in hopes that Chauvin, kneeling with glee and disdain for almost nine minutes, would stop. We heard him say “I can’t breathe,” and we heard him call out for his mother.
Bodies, Black bodies, in particular are routinely commodified, held hostage, broken down.
That includes tricks of the mind, gaslighting tactics to ensure that we question reality. They tell us to have compassion for those struggling with opioid addictions as numbers continue to rise in white communities, yet demonize Floyd’s personal struggle with fentanyl. They tell us that “All Lives Matter,” but use every deference to lessen Floyd’s humanity. They use his personal struggles with addiction and his use of counterfeit bill as a means to criminalize him and justify his death. When the very systems that make it feasible for a person to survive in poverty, or with an addiction, are never examined or dismantled.
Donald Williams, an important eyewitness to Floyd’s death opened up Day 2 was one of the first witnesses to push back against the lie.
“I stayed in my body” he replied, to the defense attorney’s intense, accusatory questioning. “You can’t paint me out to be angry.”
We watched as witnesses choked up over their survivor’s guilt, pondering if they had just acted moments earlier or spoke up sooner, maybe Floyd will still be alive.
Darnella Frazier, who was just 17 at the time that she recorded Floyd’s last moments, recounted her grief and guilt, counting sleepless nights over what she could have done.
What else can be said when the youth feel they must take on the burden of a tragedy such as this?
And multiple others who broke down in tears after recounting their experience, the pain still palpable and traumatic after watching the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
There is no urgency to increase the threshold for pain in Black communities. For the purpose of self-preservation, many of us are choosing to look elsewhere. It is only a pause for the next encounter, the next police or vigilante encounter that will surely display Black death in 3D.
To ask that Black people continue to labor emotionally or physically with the consumption of their demise is violence. This is not performative. This is real life.
If you so choose to blind your eyes and deafen your ears from the trial’s coverage, you just might be saving your life.