It always happens when I receive bad news.
I become numb. This uneasy feeling develops in my chest. I panic and gasp for air. Then, I stop. I hold my breath and wait for the feeling to pass. No words leave my mouth.
Today, that feeling in my chest broadened. It took over my whole body, but this time, I was left with no space to breathe. It happened when I found out about Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and Breonna Taylor. It happened last summer, when I watched the video of George Floyd losing his breath, as Derek Chauvin refused to take a knee off of his neck. My eyes couldn’t stand to see the pain, so I clicked away from the video on my phone. Part of me should have known this was going to happen again.
After having a stressful day of class, I picked the worst time to go on Instagram. I saw photos of Daunte Wright in everyone’s stories. Wright’s name joined the other 991 killed by police this year, another name we added to demonstrate the history of police brutality in this country. Yet I had no idea of how the killing happened.
I read every article I could to make sense of this, but with each detail that entered my brain, that same feeling took over. I looked to the Guardian, which reported that Daunte Wright was killed by an officer at Brooklyn Center, Minn.
Minnesota. This is the same state where Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd is in its third week. In fact, Chauvin’s trial is taking place eight miles away from where Wright was shot. I received a notification from CBS News reporting that Floyd’s brother Philonise was testifying about the life of the loved one he lost.
I still couldn’t understand why Wright was shot. What was the reason? All the pain that constricted my lungs turned to rage. My blood boiled and my fists clenched because I was tired of being tired.
Katie Wright, his mother, claimed she was on the phone when he was stopped by the police for a traffic violation. She said the police stopped her son because he had air fresheners covering his rear-view mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota.
If it was illegal, then why couldn’t officers write a ticket, give him a warning or find another way of punishment that kept him alive? Why did taking his life have to be the last straw? People will point to the fact that he had an existing warrant, or that he retreated to his car, but that still does not justify shooting into someone’s vehicle. It does not justify someone crashing their car, and their girlfriend seeing them die before their own eyes.
When a Black person is killed by the police, public scrutiny always falls on the person who died. News outlets report that George Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill. Eric Garner sold loose cigarettes in Staten Island, where my brother lives. The police justified entering Breonna Taylor’s home with a no-knock warrant under the suspicion that there were drugs. It was later revealed that there were no drugs in the home, and yet, Breonna Taylor won’t be able to see her family.
These facts don’t matter, because they are not worth losing someone’s life. I read a statement from the Brooklyn Center police chief saying that the officer meant to use a taser instead of a gun. Why is it that officers are able to retain their credibility even when they make mistakes? More importantly, why is the same grace not given to the Black Americans who are killed?
If Black people protest in a nonviolent way, we are ungrateful. When Black athletes such as Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists, they were excluded. When Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem, he was blackballed from the industry.
When Black Americans reached their limit this past summer, they protested peacefully. But they were met with tear gas so that our former president could be photographed in front of St. John’s Church. They were met with rubber bullets which caused injuries to their bodies, and yet they were still not afforded the same credibility as officers. Even if the majority of protests are peaceful, there is a focus on rioting or looting, because that is what is visually appealing. The word “protesters” has become the umbrella term for people who attend a rally, which detracts from the issue at hand.
If I say something, I’m wrong. If I protest, it means that I don’t acknowledge the privilege I have by living in this country.
Daunte Wright was 20 years old. He was one year younger than me. Maybe the reason I am numb is that I have no solution in mind.
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