The cameras are rolling, lights are on, directions are shouted. We are not on the set of Scorsese’s latest films. Instead, we are on Chicago Avenue South in a neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota watching George Floyd suffocated to death by police officer Derek Chauvin. The cameras belong to bystanders recording what the world will view millions of times. The lights are from the police cars called to the scene for an alleged forgery. And the shouts come from the police telling the witnesses to get back. These pedestrians shout back, pleading with the police to remove a knee from Floyd’s neck, pointing out that his nose is bleeding, that he is begging for air and later that he is no longer moving. The shouts, the pleads go on for the full seven minutes Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck and continue in vain, in hope that the paramedics will check his pulse and perform CPR. Their voices fall on deaf ears and Floyd dies in front of powerless witnesses on Memorial Day and again and again each time the video is played to a helpless audience.
I have been trying to figure out why Floyd’s death has shaken me so hard and realize this murder had an intimacy. No not that kind. Intimacy in the sense of how close the actors, the audience were to every act, each progressing scene. Standing in the front row watching it unfold, yet incapable of changing the ending, an ending we have all watched far too many times. But for Floyd’s family and friends, in particular his 6 and 22-year old daughters, this video will not be like anything they have ever seen before. It will be the closest thing to being at their father’s deathbed, but worse.
Such horrific acts of brutality and racism have always existed. It is just that the power of technology, camera phones and social media allow the world to witness them. As powerless as those bystanders felt, recording the incomprehensible heartless actions of the police, I hope that the video is a tool to give a voice to those who have been muted, a breath to those who have been suffocated and a check on all the senseless unchecked acts of racism that permeate the lives of so many people of color.
MK Menon is a scientist by training, a freelance writer by passion and a mother and wife by choice. As a transracial international adoptee in an interracial marriage with two biracial kids, she knows a thing or two about the complexities of race in this world. Her writing on race, culture and adoption have appeared in Parents, The Smart Set, The Huffington Post to name a few, and she is working on her memoir. Find her on Twitter @TheMKMenon.