The video of George Floyd’s killing by police can’t be unseen, especially by Black American males. It’s a forever reminder that this could happen to me, my sons, other family members or friends.
Sadly, it is only the latest video or story to be released in which an unarmed Black person is brutally killed by either law enforcement or an American clinging tightly to baseless hatred and racial bias.
And each life lost breaks us further. We cannot forget Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo and many others. Nor should we forget the stories of the Central Park Five, or most recently of Christian Cooper, who might be dead if police had arrived sooner and confronted him for being a law-abiding, Ivy League-educated, Black bird-watcher on the other end of a hysterical, racially motivated accusation by a white woman.
I am them, and they are me.
I am the lead telecaster for the Seattle Mariners. And yes, I’m going to speak to THE story of the week in both our country and around the world.
Save it if you’re thinking, “Stick to sports!” I’m not one-dimensional. Thank you, Seattle Times, for this opportunity.
Mr. Floyd’s pure unadulterated killing has struck America’s (and the world’s) core sense of fairness, bringing out thousands of (mostly peaceful) protest marchers — the full-tilt pallet of human colors in the U.S. and thousands more in international capitals.
The response is uplifting during a dark time. Perhaps because we now exist in a dystopian world in which we face both a pandemic and heightened, politically motivated insanity, Mr. Floyd’s killing resonates in a way that might actually make a difference.
The anger, seething anger, and pain is palpable. The injustice unthinkable. And until now, most of the perpetrators of similar crimes escaped either prosecution or conviction. And think for a moment of all the incidents that went unrecorded — and therefore misreported — before we all had cameras on our mobile phones.
It is 2020, and the words of the late 1960s Mississippi civil-rights leader, Fannie Lou Hamer, are as poignant now as then: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Yes, it goes without saying that each of us should believe that all lives matter. Bias against any group dehumanizes us. However, until Black lives matter there is no justice. There is no equality. And without that, no lives really matter. That is why saying “Black lives matter” does not negate the lives of others. Nor does believing so — or taking a knee during the national anthem — disrespect the flag or country. In fact, peaceful protest of inhumanity elevates us all. Especially if it brings actionable change.
How many more have to be killed? How many times are we going to say that we have to have an honest dialogue, Black and white? The talk is meaningless without the change. And that starts with listening closely to Black voices, contributing to worthwhile organizations that fight discrimination and by voting. These are the best ways to honor the memory of George Floyd.
As a Black man and father of sons, I’ve had to have “the talk” with my kids and feared if they were out at night for a run or wore a hoodie after dark. They’ve been followed in stores, and stopped for “driving while Black” (once even having the car confiscated at midnight in the middle of nowhere, with no cash and a dead cellphone). It doesn’t matter that I have a measure of celebrity. On the street I am just another Black man. This is life every day.
Please know that racism can also be expressed in countless subtle ways — microaggressions that might reflect white privilege rather than knowing discrimination. Assumptions that are made, things that are said, actions that are taken. I could go on for paragraphs with startling and illuminating personal examples. It is almost amazing we’ve kept bouncing back for more. Those wanting to understand how this makes a Black person feel would do best to do some good reading.
I am distressed about the lack of leadership from the White House and the divisiveness, race-baiting, tear gas, physical force and photo-ops that occur in its place. Can things get better? It is going to take serious work and conversation. And each of us figuring out how to be a part of the solution.
There’s a need for more men like Sheriff Chris Swanson of Genesee County in Michigan who walked with marchers protesting police brutality and systemic racism. We need meaningful community outreach and interaction. Less profiling. Eliminating incidents of “shoot first and ask questions later.” Police accountability is paramount. Let us breathe.
Those four Minneapolis police officers disgraced themselves, their uniform, their fellow cops, their profession and the country. I think it’s safe to say that most cops are the good guys. And we need them. These men and women have a stupendously difficult job. They don’t get paid enough. Probably don’t get thanked enough. But the bad guys have got to go.
It has been 157 years since slaves were emancipated and 56 years since the Civil Rights Act went into effect. Legislation was only a start, and neither act resulted in truly equal treatment under the law, equal opportunity or a welcoming environment throughout our great country. Far from it. We still have much work to do to address poverty, improve education, feed the needy and create opportunity. To lift people up, build a just system and address endemic racism. I want to believe it can be done.
RIP, George Floyd.
Dave Sims is in his 14th year as a Mariners broadcaster. He was the 2018 & 2019 National Sports Media Association Washington Broadcaster of the Year.