An Open Letter to George Floyd and His Family
Dear Black Boy . . . You are Loved.
Dear George Floyd,
Today is a monumental day. Today is the day we feel a release. A release of anger, hurt, and disappointment. A release of internal screams, heartaches, and internal pain. Today is the day we see justice. Today is the day we are able to not only cry for you and fight for you, but now, finally, we are able to mourn for you. Today is the day that your spirit can rest.
That monumental day when someone chose to deliberately and unrepentantly take your life America watched in bewilderment. Stuck in homes with no television programming, America was forced to watch what in the past they chose to scroll by. America was forced to watch America. As I watched you fight for your life . . . as I watched you try to breathe . . . as I watched you call for the mother who always held you close . . . my heart broke for you. My heart broke for my son. My heart broke for every black man and woman who has found themselves terrified and/or terrorized by the police. It took me days to watch the video of your death because I knew seeing it would trigger my own traumas both given to me by my own life experiences and others passed down from generations of terror for just . . . being . . . black.
On that fateful day, you died with knee on your neck for a full nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds, unable to breathe and unable to fight. Today we breathe for you . . . with you in solidarity for you. What can we learn from you and your death? What can America do to move forward from what has seemed like open season on black lives? What can we do to remember that we, too, have a right to breathe? What I would like to do is celebrate you. These are some the things I learned about you that I want America to know. In addition, these are some things I want every little black boy (and little black girl) to know as well.
1) The love between a mother and a child transcends time and space. Since your murder I have learned that your family was your biggest supporter, especially your mother. I learned that you and your mother were especially close and that no matter how old you became, you always found a way to sit and snuggle with your mother. So, many times we hear in the black community that men who love their mothers are “mommas boys.” And here you are 6’7” and in your 40’s but you always found time to let your mother know how much you adored her. Boys have a special place in their mommas’ hearts. It is a place that cannot be explained. What I learned from you is that it doesn’t have to be explained. It is a place of love and comfort that doesn’t require or warrant an explanation. Your love for your mother as a black man is inspiring and should inspire us to allow our young black boys to show affection without rebuke. As you loved your mother until your dying day, I know that had she been here she would have come for you. In spirit, I am certain that she did.
2) You are not the culmination of your mistakes or bad decision making. In times like this, the media and particularly the “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” groups inevitably find a way to make deaths at the hands of police the victim’s fault. I am not going to get into this debate, but what I have learned from you and many others who have endured police brutality and their overreach of power is that you are not your mistakes. Sure, you have made your fair share. So have I. So have they. So has everyone. Just because you make a mistake even during a police confrontation does not give anyone the right to kneel on your neck for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds and deny you breath or deny you life. This one moment does not define your life. The service to your community and love you showed for them is what defines your life. Your call to your community to stop murdering one another is what defines your life. Your time on the community basketball court with young people who looked up to you is what defines your life. The undeniable and unconditional love from your friends and family is evident and is what defines your life. You . . . are not . . . the culmination . . . of your mistakes. You are a culmination of your successes and that’s how we will choose to remember you.
Lastly, I want America to know and every little black boy (and little black girl) to know the following.
3) You are loved. If you do not know anything else, remember you are loved. There will be times in your life being black that you feel marginalized, overlooked, and left out. There may even be times when the black community makes you feel this way. But no matter how you feel, you are loved. The Bible says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” No matter whether you believe in God. No matter whether you have ever met Him or even if you have no desire to meet Him, God loves you. God . . . loves . . . YOU. In death, you remind us that this world and that America’s love for us is dismissive, abusive, exploitive, and fleeting. But God’s love is perfect and so are you in Him.
Thank you, Mr. Floyd, for the life you lived. Thank you for the lessons you have provided us even after death. Let us breathe for you now as you rest and always remember that no matter what, right here, right now . . . you are always loved.
Dr. Cheri N. Langley
Author of “Dear Black Boy”