Within the last week, I asked a fellow film blogger if writing about non-movie topics would be something that would be bad form. They were encouraging. The plan wasn’t for George Floyd to be the first thing I write about but there’s no way to just sit back and continue to see these incidents and not speak out.
Last night, I started writing a post about the murder of George Floyd by former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin. In the course of the writing, President Donald Trump tweeted:
These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!
At that point, disgusted, angry and concerned for the innocent lives put in jeopardy by such a careless and thoughtless Tweet (not the first, not the 50th and surely not the last) from the second place finisher in the popular vote of the 2016 U.S. Election, I read back what I wrote. None of it seemed fitting anymore. So, I backed away, went to bed and slept on it. It’s been almost 24 hours and so much has happened since then. Much like every news cycle in 2020 and honestly, since January 2017 when Donald Trump assumed the office of President, the speed at which new news becomes old is astounding. But none of that matters right now. That’s not what this post is about.
Today, I sit here angry with myself. Angry for every moment in the last 25 years of my adult life where I walked past casual racism or the general lack of humanity shown toward other human beings. And we all should be because it’s those moments that have culminated in what happened in Minnesota to George Floyd. And Amaud Arbery. And Eric Garner before him. And Freddie Gray. And Walter Scott. And Amadou Diallo. And Trayvon Martin. And Tamir Rice. And Corey Jones. And Alton Sterling. And Oscar Grant. And the countless other names I’ve somehow forgotten whose lives have been taken because someone didn’t look at them as a human being who deserved to live. I’m angry because I’m sure there was someone like me in their murderer’s lives who saw what these monsters were capable of and did nothing.
Do you think the rest of the officers of the 3rd Precinct didn’t know what Derek Chauvin was capable of? His record spoke for itself. If you’re reading this and you’re casting doubt on those reports because you think it might be #FakeNews, let me remind you, you are part of the fucking problem. If you’re already greasing up the wheels for a bus full of rebuttals containing the word “But…” when I point the finger at those around Chauvin who did nothing, again, let me remind you, you are part of the fucking problem. And it’s not just his co-workers or his bosses. Or the failed Minnesota legal system that left this cop on the street. It’s anyone that ever saw this officer treat anyone like less of a human being and failed to check them. Please don’t tell me that a man who can sit with his knee on the neck of a man gasping for air for 7 minutes while he nonchalantly sat with his hands in his pocket unphased by the man’s gasps of “I can’t breathe” multiple times. If you want to tell me that the man I saw murder George Floyd up until that point showed no signs of what he was capable of, again, you’re part of the fucking problem.
If you think these incidents aren’t about some sort of discrimination, you’re part of the fucking problem. Quick, since Rodney King in 1991, rattle off the names of all of the straight white male senselessly murdered by a bad cop or an overzealous citizen who shot first and didn’t seem all that bothered to ask questions later. So, this is why when yet another of these incidents happen, the message of “Black Lives Matter” becomes the focus. If you’re one of those that feel the need to remind me that “All Lives Matter” or “White Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter”, I have to remind you yet again that you’re part of the fucking problem. Those offended by protestors wanting to remind the world that the victim’s life and people of color’s lives matter, it’s likely you’re complicitly part of the fucking problem.
In 1989, Spike Lee made Do The Right Thing. Now’s not the time to argue over whether or not it’s his best film. (It is.) Watching it back this week, it’s stunning how glacially slow we’ve moved when it comes to racial relations. Don’t let the election of Barack Obama as President fool you into thinking we turned some kind of corner. If anything, it brought the obvious racism to the surface. The good news is we now know more than ever who the culprits are. The bad news is we likely let them pass. Before he was even in the Presidential picture, Donald Trump was the vocal leader of the birther movement. Despite this blatant racism behind the calls, how many of us knew someone who bought into this? Did you call them out? (Part of the fucking problem.) Did you remind anyone enthralled by the “Make America Great” brigade of 2016 of Trump’s blatant racism? (Part of the fucking problem.) Did you let them off the hook with a “Let’s just agree to disagree” after they told you they were entitled to their opinion? (Part of the fucking problem.)
It’s time to stop being part of the fucking problem. It’s time to go find that trash can and throw it through the window of Sal’s Pizzeria. There’s a lot of talk about rising above the hatred. Being better than the perpetrator of these racist attacks solely based on the color of their skin. What that means is that every opportunity you get to check those who continue to stoke the flames of hatred and racism even in a casual and unintentional manner, they need to be checked. Feel free to cancel them afterwards but before then, they need to be reminded that you see them for who they are. This includes those re-posting memes of heavily armed citizens holding signs wanting to lynch governors because they couldn’t get a fucking haircut but were completely silent about the senseless death of George Floyd. This means those more upset about a Target on fire than a black man not being able to breathe because some entitled police officer decided he was above the law. This goes beyond the Floyd dialogue, too. See something, say something. But not just say it, make sure it has teeth. The effort made to hold Amy Cooper accountable was impressive and shows you the potential consequences. Though it’s likely more people were moved to act due to the appalling way Cooper treated her dog than the black man behind the camera as she attempted to weaponize the NYPD via 911 toward him. More of this needs to happen. Every fucking time. No matter how small. No matter how easy it is to keep moving past. No matter how much doing so could potentially make you a target as well.
Enough is enough. We need to do better.