Still Waiting to Breathe: Reflections of a Black Mother

posted in: Community Engagement | 0

These are troubling times. George Floyd, an African American man, while handcuffed on the ground and in police custody, had his life snuffed out when a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. In words eerily reminiscent of a previous death, Floyd shouted out, “I can’t breathe!” The entire incident was caught on videotape.

In the aftermath, protesters exhibited their frustration in both peaceful and violent ways. As a result of the more damaging demonstrations, businesses in both Minneapolis and St. Paul are in shambles.

These are troubling times. But, as an African American woman, part of me wonders – can this taking of YET ANOTHER unarmed Black man’s life at the hands of police finally spark the change that we so desperately need? Can these businesses be rebuilt and flourish in a revitalized community where its members are treated equitably? Could this time be different?

I remember when my son was a young teen, and his dad and I decided that it was time to have “the talk” with him. No, not the sex talk that we so often hear about, but the talk that parents of Black boys feel the need to have with their child when they come of age. We “school” them about how to interact with police – how to go out of their way to show compliance so that they don’t become a statistic. My son is now 30 years old and my fear is still there. I still worry that he will become yet another statistic, through no fault of his own. How long Lord? (This is especially poignant considering that George Floyd called out for his mom as he lay dying.)

At  DeYoung Consulting Services so much of our work centers around helping organizations move toward equity (health, employment, education, etc.). We work with them to create structures, processes and cultures to facilitate that process. Our personal and professional lives have been focused on equitable access for everyone for so long that it’s easy to get discouraged. And yet, we double down. We will continue to facilitate conversations that allow open and honest dialogue about race and culture, and the systems that limit our community’s opportunities. We’ll keep holding a mirror up to organizations so that they can see who they are and what they do, as opposed to who they say they are and what they say they do.  We’ll do our part. And just maybe out of the ashes of George Floyd’s death we can collectively make meaningful change.