Anyone paying a moment of attention to the latest symptom of our national crisis had to see this coming. Stephen Jackson, emotionally wounded and visibly unnerved all week, is asking for help from a group whose support is essential.
Standing before a crowd in Minneapolis on Friday, where his friend, George Floyd, died under the knee of a police officer, the former Warriors forward sent a message that needs to be heard:
“To my white brothers, I love you. Every race here, I love you. But it comes to a point now, where if you love me and you not standing on the side of me, then your love don’t mean s--t.”
Jackson was appealing to folks of all colors to stand up or sit out. Join the struggle for progress or concede you accept America as it is, in which case your love or friendship is hollow.
Wearing a black hoodie etched with white letters “RIP GEORGE FLOYD 3rd Ward, TX,” Jackson – joined by the likes of Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns and entertainer Jamie Foxx – urged folks of all races and ethnicities to ensure Floyd does not die in vain.
And that any trial should not focus on Floyd’s character – he allegedly was passing a possible $20 bill – but on those responsible for his death.
"I'm here because they're not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin," Jackson told those at the rally. "A lot of times, when police do things (that) they know that's wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up and bring up their background -- to make it seem like the bulls--t that they did was worth it. When was murder ever worthy?
“But if it's a black man, it's approved.”
"You can't tell me,” Jackson continued, “when that man has his knee on my brother's neck -- taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket -- that that smirk on his face didn't say, ‘I'm protected.’”
Jackson, and many others with a platform, is urging sisters and brothers of another color to pick a side. Are you willing to accept such tragedies as that which resulted in the death of Floyd and so many, many, many others throughout American history? Or are you ready to stand up and join the fight against a system that routinely enables malicious actions that tear at the hearts of communities?
Floyd’s death is the third high-profile incident this year involving an African-American fatality at the guns of law enforcement or vigilantes. These actions ignited the flame that resulted in rebellious acts all over the country. Oakland. Los Angeles. Denver. New York. Chicago. Obviously, Minneapolis and its twin-city neighbor St. Paul.
It’s also raging in Louisville, which already was seething in the wake of the shooting of Breonna Taylor, who was home in bed.
In the so-called enlightened age, it’s reasonable to wonder how much of this can be tolerated.
“If they’re not giving us no answers, we gotta come up with our own answers,” Jackson said. “And we willing to do that. Understand that. We’re willing to do that. We gonna use our platform. I’m going to use everything I have to get a conviction, to get all these MFs in jail – excuse my French, I’m angry – but I’m a proud back man.”
From slavery to lynching to Jim Crow to today, with violent crimes recorded on cell phones, there is a preponderance of evidence of racism in the United States. America’s racist history, and its racist present, is by far the biggest barrier to be cleared before we can reach our national potential.
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Effecting real change can’t happen if the majority is silent. Non-racists merely perpetuate the status quo, which has existed for 400 years.
No, any real progress toward this country living up to its ideal, its written promise, requires cooperation across all lines. Racial. Gender. Sexuality. Ethnicity. Age. Economic. Political.
Whether it’s an impossible bridge to build is to be determined. But millions, over four centuries, have tried, some giving their lives. All have failed.
And we will continue to fail until enough people with a conscience can summon the courage to join hands and fight the only war that can improve our nation. Jackson is ready.
"I'm hurt. I'm angry,” he said. “But I ain't scared.”