By TERRI LEE FREEMAN
Two years ago, we all watched in horror as the life of Mr. George Floyd was callously taken by former police officer Derrick Chauvin. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we watched Chauvin apply his body weight to the neck of Mr. Floyd until he took his last breath. We should never forget what we saw that day. We should never forget the rage, the hurt, and the pain we felt that day. We should have the space and time to grieve and process this traumatic act of violence. And, we should never forget the promises made by so many corporations and organizations when they, in fact, declared that “Black Lives Matter ” and acknowledged the reality of structural racism.
But today, while we must acknowledge this second anniversary, we are forced to shift our attention to the horrific act of senseless gun violence that occurred in Texas yesterday afternoon. As of this writing, 19 children in grades 2 through 4, and 2 adults were murdered in an elementary school. These children were where they were supposed to be, in a school classroom. And the parents of these children had every right to expect to see their children sitting at the dinner table last night. But once again, an assault weapon in the hands of an unstable person crushed those expectations. A decade after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 first graders and 6 adults were murdered, it appears we have learned absolutely nothing. Not to mention the funeral for the youngest victim of the May 14th Buffalo, NY, grocery store massacre was held yesterday.
Senseless gun violence occurs on city streets and in neighborhoods across the country almost everyday in Baltimore; Washington, DC; Chicago; Memphis; Atlanta; and the list goes on and on. With the exception of George Floyd’s murder, the common denominator in these situations that tug at our collective conscience is GUNS! I believe in the second amendment. However, I don’t believe there is a need for assault weapons in the hands of the civilians. And given that we only have two hands, why does any average citizen need 10 guns?
What do we do? Are we satisfied with empty promises made by public officials that have not yielded any progress? Do we just shake our heads and talk about how awful it is getting? Do we move farther and farther away from our major cities in hopes that violence will not knock on our door? (Let me point out that Uvalde, TX, and Newtown, CT, are not exactly major urban centers!)
I am the first person to say we should use our voice and vote. Today, I want to encourage us to use our feet to march and our fingers to call our elected officials. The streets should be filled with people protesting the lack of courage and the consistent inaction that exists within the halls of our seats of government. Phone lines in the nation’s Capitol should be jammed. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We’ve had plenty of that. It is time for collective action.
While we must take time to remember the public lynching that took place two years ago, standing with the family of George Floyd and demanding that folks make good on their promises of change, it is also our duty to protect our children and stand with the families of the slain in Buffalo and the families of these beautiful little children in Uvalde. If we’ve learned nothing else from the pandemic, we have come to realize that we are all connected. The actions of one person impact all of us. We can no longer sit idly by thinking and praying for grieving families. We must now act on their behalf.