Protesters with a Black Lives Matter banner
Photo courtesy of Cody Bahn.

George Floyd is not the first unarmed Black person to be killed by police in recent years. But this moment is different. His murder by a white Minneapolis police officer, while other officers looked on, will change laws. Let me tell you why. 

First of all, at least 40 other countries are protesting and rioting because of Floyd’s death. I never saw that coming. I’ve seen signs that read, “Japan has your back” and “Turkey is monitoring this situation.” We as a nation should be embarrassed by this racist and unjust system because the world is watching.

Second, people in the United States are tired of the treatment of Black people. White people are just as tired of this unjust system as Blacks people are. While attending the protests, I’ve noticed an enormous amount of white people, especially young people that appear to be in their early 20s. They are the ones on the front lines with us to lead this fight. They are the ones that are sacrificing their bodies and risking arrest. And I honor them for their sacrifice. One place that I don’t want to be during a protest is on the front line. I am so happy to have them fight with us. It would be harder to fight alone.

Finally, we are already seeing more police being held accountable. There were no convictions for the officers whose custody Freddie Gray died in five years ago. The officer who killed Eric Garner six years ago was only fired. And he sued to try to get his job back. That won’t fly today. Just in the month since George Floyd’s death, there have been quick responses from the justice system. Police have lost their jobs, been arrested, and been charged with criminal offenses in cases where they’ve assaulted or killed someone. It’s not enough, but that’s a start to hold all police that commit crimes accountable.

When I first heard Floyd say, “Officer I can’t breathe,” I started to cry. I was really feeling him. I felt his pain. This is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. But sometimes I don’t feel free. I feel like l’m being held hostage by the invisible restraints of a racist and unjust system. I love this country, but America has to do better by treating Black Americans fairly. It should start with our justice system, the one that was so easy for me to get into but so hard to get out of. 

Stop search and seizure. Stop racial profiling. Stop killing innocent unarmed Black people.

This has yet to happen. Now, with the world protesting Floyd’s death, I hope America can wake up, see the pain and misery it has bestowed upon Black people, and try to make it right.

Retrain police and let there be standard training all over America. No chokeholds. Retraining costs money, so you may know that I am not in favor of defunding the police. We need police but we don’t need bad police.

2020 started with the coronavirus pandemic shutting down jobs and killing half a million people worldwide. Now it continues with George Floyd’s death forcing many to confront racism here and abroad. In this election year, what’s next for America? Change?

Eric Thompson-Bey is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media.