We didn’t even have a chance to catch our breath after 10 people were murdered in a racist mass shooting in Buffalo, NY.
Now, as I write this, I am reeling from the news yesterday of 19 children and two teachers murdered in a Texas elementary school – something that is particularly hard as a elementary public school teacher in Texas.
As usual, the news reports amplified the shocking numbers. Nineteen babies were stolen from us yesterday.
But there’s another thing about that number, nineteen. Uvalde was also the nineteenth school shooting in 2022.
How are we supposed to continue as if everything is back to normal – when the problem is this IS normal?
This is a normal part of being a teacher and a student, preparing and participating in school emergency drills. Yet, we are never prepared when it becomes a reality. And for me, the threat of violence is a normal part of being a Black person in America.
This is a heavy day of sorrow, because today also marks two years since George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police.
George Floyd’s murder, caught on video for all the world to see, sparked a national uprising against police violence and in defense of the lives of Black people.
We took to the streets. We cried out for justice. And we pleaded for you to remember that while George was one of over 1,000 people killed by law enforcement in 2020, he was so much more than a number.
George Floyd was described as a gentle, kind, compassionate man who loved sports and mentored young people. He was a loving father of five and a grandfather of two. “Big Floyd,” as he was sometimes called, hated to see people struggle, and would often stop to help strangers on the street.
Daunte Wright was a new father. His friends called him gregarious and witty. He loved playing basketball and had dreams of an NBA career.
Alton Sterling was also a devoted father of five, widely regarded as a nice guy with a big personality who loved to help people. When he cooked, he always made enough for everybody.
Breonna Taylor was the glue that held her family together. She was an award-winning EMT with plans on becoming a nurse. Her boyfriend had bought an engagement ring and was planning to propose.
Elijah McClain was a massage therapist and a self-taught musician. He liked to play his guitar and his violin for animals in the shelter, believing the music helped soothe their anxiety. Friends and former colleagues described him as “the sweetest, purest person I have ever met” with “a child-like spirit.”
Tamir Rice was only a baby when we lost him. The youngest of four, he loved his brothers and sisters, and his smile lit up the room. He loved to play soccer, football, and basketball. He loved the arts and liked to draw. He was a mama’s boy, a jokester, and a budding athlete with a world of possibility before him. Next month should have been his 20th birthday.
But it was all stolen.
When I met George Floyd’s sister months after his murder, her grief was as fresh as the day it happened.
When you confront the full human toll of these murders, you know it’s not enough to list names and quote numbers.
We want to remember and celebrate the impact each left on the world around them, their hopes and joys, their dreams for the future.
A future that was stolen from them – from all of us – by police murder.
Because it’s easy to lose sight of that when we look at the statistics – even when the statistics are as shocking as these:
And this violence, consistently and disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and Latino people. In fact, Black people are nearly 3 times more likely to be killed by American police than whites.
In nearly every year since independent watchdogs have started carefully tracking police murders of Black people, the deaths at the hands of police have increased over the year before.
How can this be? As the national conversation around Black Lives Matter has grown, more people than ever are calling for transparency, accountability, and justice. Recently, The Guardian reported that since George’s murder, there has been no improvement in the rate of police violence against Black and Brown communities. In fact, U.S. police are now killing three people every day.
How can it be that it’s still getting worse?
It’s important that you understand that none of this is new. This has been the reality of the Black experience on American soil since the first enslaved people were stolen from our ancestral lands and brought here – to this stolen land – to be forced to work.
When Michael Brown – a young man days away from starting college – was murdered in Ferguson, Missouri, the rest of the world learned what Black Americans have always known to be true: that our murders are under-reported and under-counted. That these deaths are invisible to law enforcement and to society at large.
The statistics are shocking. More than shocking, they are painful. The numbers themselves are violence. Each hashtag is a reminder of how fragile Black lives are.
These are not just hashtags and numbers. These are our sons. Our fathers. Our partners and friends. These are our brothers. Behind every statistic is a name, a life, a person who was loved and whose loss is deeply felt.
Each one represents a future that was stolen from us.
It’s been 55 years since Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. cried out about the “fierce urgency of now.” Yet we are still fighting the same apathy and complacency.
Today we are still crying out with the fierce urgency of now – the voice of people still discriminated against for the color of our skin.
But we fight on in the hope that, in the end, our history, our struggle, our strength, our hope, and our victories, will be etched forever as American history.