Friday, June 5, 2020

For Floyd

Pressed into the ground, George Floyd inhaled gravel as he gasped, “I can’t breathe.” The

knee dug deeper into his neck, silencing him. His eyes rolled back as he whimpered “mama.”

Two other officers pin down his back and legs. Suddenly, Floyd’s body becomes limp and

unresponsive. The officer continues to press his knee into his neck for 2 minutes and 53 seconds.

George Floyd died that day.

He died for an alleged $20 of counterfeit money used at a deli. This only reinforces the

notion that death is cheap even if life is (or should be) priceless.

Now, symphonies of sirens and shattered glass blend together to create one annihilating

roar. Floyd’s death is not an isolated event. Since Jan. 1, 2015, 1,252 black people have been shot

and killed by police, according to The Washington Post's database tracking police shootings; that

doesn't even include those who died in police custody or were killed using other methods.

After each incident, there are protests and upheaval until it passes. Black voices fall on

deaf ears. The news becomes old. Justice is not brought. And then another similar incident occurs

again. And the vicious cycle repeats itself.

Here I am: ashamed, disgusted, and hurt. While I have not experienced oppression or

been subjected to torture, the matter hits close to home. My grandfather was a peaceful protester

in Iran. He went to jail twice for standing up for humanity— for believing in basic human rights,

for embracing equality. In prison, he was lashed, beaten, and placed in solitary confinement.

Freedom is not free.

The language that is used surrounding these brutal deaths depicts systematic racism. We

call cops who murder “bad apples.”Here’s the thing: the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Things need to change. It is shockingly difficult to teach humanity how to be human. No

child should be shot, leaving a puddle of blood in their shadows. They were built for larger

legacies. When Trayvon Martin was killed, Obama stated, “Trayvon Martin could have been


We have fostered and facilitated a world that has repeatedly sanctioned barbarism. As a

law student, I am disappointed in the shortcomings of our justice system. All four men who were

involved in the murder of Floyd should be charged. Officer Chauvin should be charged with

FIRST degree murder (not third). If pressing your knee into someone’s neck while listening to

his cries and watching the life leave his eyes for 9 minutes is not premeditation, then I don’t

know what is. There was intent, preparation, and planning. In the legal world, premeditation has

no time constraints, it can be formed in an instant. I would say that nine minutes of slowly killing

someone with bare hands meets the requisite level of premeditation. The other three cops who

had the authority and ability to intervene are accomplices. Their silence made them complicit.

These people must be charged and more importantly, convicted accordingly.

And yes, not all cops are bad. Most are heroic. But officers who use excessive force are

not “bad apples,” they are murderers. Black men are not thugs, they are human. Protesters are not

savage vigilantes, they are mothers and fathers who might lose their kids. I believe in the power

of words, the ability for language to shape our culture and perception. This narrative needs to

change. The language that we choose to employ can render a completely different internalization

of our society. We must change this rhetoric to reflect respect, equality, and strength.

Labeling a murderer as a bad apple in a bunch justifies acts of racism. It makes it seem

normal. Oh, it’s just another bad apple that killed someone. Bad apples are slightly sour,

distasteful. They’re fruit. Most importantly, we tolerate bad apples. Belittling lives as collateral

damage is unacceptable. Black lives matter. Every life—black, white, and everything in between

— matters.

Our president makes this rhetoric worse. When President Trump says something

demeaning against protesters, he gives a sense of exclusivity to the nation. Trump’s words

privilege one and impoverish another. He throws gasoline at the flames of division engulfing our

country. Instead of changing the rhetoric, Trump transforms this crisis into a spectacle by waving

a bible (yet another divisive device) for a photo op.

The truth is, we all bleed red. We all jog through our neighborhoods. We all cry out for

our mom when in pain. We must dismantle the racial constructions that divide our nation.

A knee will never be pressed into MY neck. A jog will never land me a gunshot wound. A

late night candy run will never draw suspicion. I will never be shot by an officer much less afraid

of one.

Furthermore, unlike my grandfather, I will never be subjected to an 8-by-8 cell for

asserting my beliefs. I will never have a conversation with my children about how to approach

officers and how to tread lightly around people who lead paths of ignorance. I write this because

I CAN BREATHE. I support you. I stand with you, by you, behind you. I don’t wish to

understand your plight, I wish that there was nothing for me to misunderstand.

With Love,

Arianna Allen

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