I Feel You – A Black Lives Matter Reflection

George Floyd

Essay by Manny V. Martinez
NVC Institutional Advancement

There is a fuse slowing heating again in the United States of America. Its embers, hundreds of years old, now more evident to us through handheld devices manufactured in part to document the joys of our everyday life. To some, banal bravado is nothing new, as this country is iron-branded on folklore and capturing memories of our national accomplishments. Stucco’ d on the foundations of civil disobedience, symbols of freedom, proverbial bootstraps and standing up for personal rights against those who wish to take them from us. Yet, it seems as though certain questionable flames are more frequent these days. Sometimes with no rationale, and simply emotions blowing in the wind to be forgotten tomorrow.

Similar to a seismic fault line, this fuse heats and tightens, waiting to release the collective energy created by the small daily actions of one person against another. Namely injustice. Metaphorically like a clinching fist, restrained from the forward-moving momentum it is capable of inflicting in the seconds before it is projected. Frustrations physically manifested through unintentional action. Everyone has his or her breaking point, and for many in Minneapolis and across the nation, it has been the public murder of George Floyd.

From Boston (1770) to Los Angeles (1943, 1965, 1992) to Ferguson, Missouri (2014), and now Minneapolis (2020), there is historically a constant suffocating stranglehold associated with structural violence. What is structural violence beyond a theory in sociology? It is meta-physical asphyxiation of the working class, being the right person at the wrong time, the proletariat; it is you and I, manifested as such by witnessed murder of people such as George Floyd. It is a 400% interest payday loan needed to pay bills, it is the late fees which never end, it is being asked for your receipt at the store, it is receiving unequal compensation. In its core principle, it is division by a philosophy that one person is more powerful than another because of appearance, profession, or bloodline. It is by design, established to scrape at our insecurities and lead our civilization to notions that we exist in a universe centered on us against them. Human against Human. Wage against Wage. Wedge issues that in reality do not really affect us at all.

George Floyd was murdered. Publicly executed with no jury. He called for his mother, more than likely knowing his death was imminent. I recall an excerpt from ‘What Every Person Should Know about WAR,’ by Chris Hedges, which documented his experiences as a war combat correspondent. He observed that during the Vietnam War, many American and Vietnamese soldiers, upon death, would call out for their mother, wife, or girlfriend in their final moments.

Why is this relevant?

A knee to the back of a person’s neck, of any color, or gender, is not only a cruel form of punishment, but a horrific death sentence. It demonstrates the weight of structural violence in a physical manifestation. It is the equivalent of a war crime. Those born into underserved, minority, underrepresented, impoverished and/or forgotten communities experience this anxiety about the ‘Po-Po’ every day in the USA.

I Feel You.

I remember my elders saying, “watch out for the police,” before leaving home. I recall, with clarity, being stopped and photographed in my own neighborhood for walking home from school as a young teen by the gang task force. I twitch at the learned experience of tear gas in my eye from simply dancing at a rave in the ’90s. I take a deep breath, as I think about having a shotgun pulled on me, and friends, by officers who accused us of being in a stolen car after our license plates had been switched at a house party. I feel shame and embarrassment remembering my mother seeing me on a curb as my friends were dropping me off in front of my house one night. You see, I was a barrio kid and we happened to have a baseball hat in the back window of the car. Apparently, this was gang-related, but in reality was all about where my house happened to be located. My trauma seems like nothing compared to the Floyd murder evidence, yet it sticks with me. It helps me to understand the fear and frustration we see taking place today. I understood the urban vernacular that most police are not our friends. If you do as well,

I Feel You.

Like a noose around a neck, handcuffs across the wrist, or now, a knee to the neck, the death of George Floyd, serves as a reminder that you can be nothing more than what someone else determines you are in a little as a few minutes. There is an everyday war fought in the jungle known as the United States. Citizens at times living inside an unrecognized caste system. Defined by surname, degrees, addresses, or color of skin. Laws enforced by officers who no longer live in the neighborhoods they patrol.

People dehumanized, desensitized.

This pandemic has pulled the curtain back on many realities in our nation. There is no us, only them, the government officials you more than likely did not vote for will not arrive to save the day. If they do, it will be too late and too sculpted to meet a specific narrative to matter. It is undeniable that the COVID-19 world of today has added to the fear, separation and uncertainty that all humankind feels in the now. Much like the unknown, unseen and unheard of microbe that circulates in our air today, the death of George Floyd is a documentation of a disease in our society that must be eradicated in order to advance our nation, and more so, our civilization. The fuse is hot given the pandemic, and the criminal actions by officers of the law, delivered the flame needed to blow the fuse. Will it actually change this time? I do hope so.

Why do I take the time to write this?

My thoughts are from my own life experiences as a teen growing up in the pre and post, L.A. riot environment. I witnessed the acts of looting and failure of the system to deliver justice in the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police in 1992. Police brutality is not new. Just now simply shown with more frequency by accessible technology. Similar to how television showed Americans the true nature of war during Vietnam. Ironically, we now see few images of war or dead soldiers on television. I recall feeling tension in the air as uncertainty grew about how far the flames would spread. I knew even at that age that we lived in a tense environment.

The killing of George Floyd is a public tragedy in an already tense society facing unemployment numbers not seen in a nearly a century. I reference fault-lines based on my early life in California because this is what the world of today feels like. The fear of ‘The Big One’ always present. The Big One referring to the overdue earthquake expected to strike the West Coast of the United States someday. There is a certain relatable past-present connection for me here because racial tensions were tense then as well, however, nothing like today.

We must remember that no matter how tense things get, violence often is never a solution with positive outcomes. I do hope we can pass that bit of knowledge on to the current generation. Perhaps, non-violent resistance will show its way as being the best method to expose brutality. It is sadly also possible this country will follow the lead of other violent revolutions. Protests can bring about change, but must stay focused on a unified message to expose its enemies and not join in their crimes. While our civilization races to find a cure for the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps we can find answers to end the virus that is systemic racism as well. To those peacefully protesting, feeling stressed out, or anxiety of reflecting on how they fit into all this,

I Feel You.

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