The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis was a watershed moment for many Americans.
Seeing Floyd’s life choked away while he begged for his life, hearing onlookers begging Derek Chauvin to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck and seeing the officer refuse to do so, reveling in the fact he had the power to do what he wanted with no obvious fear of reprisal is an image that will be a part of United States history as long as there is a United States.
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It’s caused a reckoning. It’s convinced many of us who were slow to grasp that a mindset which leads to a moment like that truly exists. It’s helped us understand why Black Americans live with anxiety and fear that the majority of the country never has to carry.
It’s not that we haven’t been told before. It’s not that we haven’t asked for folks to help us understand and then opted to only believe some of what we were told.
But here we are again, in the wake of George Floyd’s death once again turning to Black Americans for answers. Even as they themselves are processing the trauma of what they saw and what they’ve experienced in their own lives, we are asking Black people to speak on it. Help us understand. Help us to, in a way, feel better.
It must be an immeasurable test of patience and mental strength to do that. But so many do. Locally, Patriots like Devin and Jason McCourty and ex-Patriots like Benjamin Watson and Duron Harmon have done it.
On Thursday, Patriots running back James White was on a video conference with the media and almost all the questions he fielded had to do with Floyd’s murder, possible protests when the NFL season begins and his reaction to the way the team has handled things.
I asked him if he gets tired of doing the same thing he’s done before — explain.
“It can be a little mentally exhausting but like I said, the more you can explain, the more you can help somebody understand different situations people in America deal with is only gonna make things better,” White said. “Everybody should educate themselves a little better on Black history in America. To get a better understanding of how laws work, how racism works, how different states have different laws; there may be some laws that people may not even know exist. But the more we can learn, the better educated we’ll be and help each other out.”
When I said to White that it would be fair for him to say, “Didn’t we just go over all this a couple of years ago?” he could only laugh.
Whether it’s White or Devin McCourty, whose family just suffered a great tragedy with the loss of his unborn daughter or Watson, who has seven children but continues to answer the bell to speak to media every day on these issues, the selflessness is inspiring.
They live with a burden they don’t deserve, experience personal traumas they do not share, carry a fear we can’t understand and then are asked to shepherd people who diminish their experiences into getting enlightenment.
Then go play football at a high level. We ask a lot.