George Floyd is trying to tell us something. His first message was clear, urgent: he couldn’t breathe because of the pressure Derek Chauvin applied to his neck for more than eight minutes before Mr. Floyd died of asphyxiation.
But as I sit with the events of the past week, feeling a deep gnawing because we still seem so far from equality and justice, I’m hearing another message, equally urgent. Know what it’s like to be breathless. Stop talking and listen.
Sarah Bellamy, artistic director of the Penumbra Theatre, said following Mr. Floyd’s murder:
“As a black institution that has carried the water of racial equity work in Minnesota for decades, . . . we must be permitted the space to grieve right now. . . . Give us a moment while we practice deep self-love. Give us a moment while we gather our strength. ”
Listen while we mourn.
“For white folks who want to help the black community right now, if you have the energy to act: step into the space and put your comfort at risk. Stand with us. Stand next to us. Be kinder. Be even more compassionate. Listen better. Dig deeper. Move past fear. Don’t wait for us to tell you what to do but be ready to listen when we offer constructive criticism or advice. We can’t do this alone and we need everyone, everyone, in this fight.”
George Floyd’s is one voice among many that has been trying to tell us for a very long time, We can’t breathe.
Today I visited the site where Mr. Floyd died. At the scene of the crime that has rocked the world and broken too many hearts, a boy no more than 7 offered me water. Free.