Learning out Loud in Milwaukee, WI

A black man in Minnesota was killed by police on my birthday

And it wasn’t the first time.

I turned 33 on May 26 of this year. Shortly after I finished a 36 mile bike ride, news broke that a black man was killed by police in Minneapolis. His name was George Floyd. Update: A previous version of this post said he was killed on May 26. He died on the 25th but video of the killing was released on the 26th.

When I turned 28, a black man was killed by the police in New York City. His name was Dalton Branch. He was suspected of murdering his girlfriend and he opened fire on the police the day he was killed. He was never arrested. Her family, and her community, will never get justice.

When I turned 29, a black man was killed by US marshals and local police in St. Louis County, IL. His name was Devonte Gates. He was a suspect in a murder connected to a carjacking. He fled on foot, the police did not give a reason for shooting him. He was never arrested. Neither he nor victims will never have justice served.

When I turned 30, no black men were killed by police. But an unarmed Hispanic man was killed in New Mexico. His name was Hector Gamboa. He was wanted for murder and when he refused to let police into his home, they killed him. Neither he nor any of his victims will ever have justice served.

When I turned 31, no black men were killed by police. An armed white man who threatened the police was. He lived in Texas where it’s legal to be armed in public.

Last year, a black man named Terrance Bridges was killed by police in Kansas City, MO. He was armed, allegedly stole a vehicle, resisted arrest, and the office fired his weapon, killing him.

This year a black man named George Floyd was killed. Video of the murder was released on my birthday. Allegedly, he was drunk and used a counterfeit $20 bill he may not have known was fake to pay for cigarettes. The police officer was arrested, we can only hope Floyd’s family and community will receive justice.

Source: The Washington Post police shooting database, which started tracking all police shootings in 2015.

My birthday is an arbitrary day. It happened to be a day I went for a long bike ride, one I have the freedom to do, and privilege to do without being killed or arrested. It happened to be a day I tuned out the news, turned a blind eye to the rest of the world. Another choice I have the privilege to make. Millions of Americans don’t have the privilege to turn the rest of the world off, even for a day, because their skin is black.

These Americans don’t have the privilege to walk, bike, shop, or even sit in a park without being harassed or, worse, killed by the police.

A lot of people will look at the conditions in Minneapolis right now and say “well these protesters should have just stayed peaceful, they can’t expect to accomplish anything by burning the city down.” To these people I ask: What is the purpose of a society where people cannot walk freely? What is the purpose of a society where the state can execute people with no process? What is the purpose of a store, if a segment of the population cannot shop freely.

There are 500 years of injustice to repair in this country. Discounting those who point that out, demand justice, and refuse to sit peacefully while the state continually gets away with genocide is not how we start to do that. Tying the actions of a violent group to the peaceful intentions of another is not how we do that. Denying the grief and experience of the communities who continue to lose disproportionately more of their people every year is not the way to do it.

This is not a profound blog post. It’s not meant to be. Black lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. And until we all recognize that, own it, and embrace the change to prove it, we only serve to prove that no lives truly matter.

Say their names. Say them loud. Say them often. Put your money and your voice into the parts of your community doing good, and stand up against injustice everywhere.

His name was George Floyd.