Many people are beginning to wake up to the harsh reality that America has catered to a certain segment of its society and that privilege has come at the expense of Black Americans. Sadly, systemic killings of Black people, discriminatory drug laws, and the hyper criminalization of Black people have become a common part of the Black American experience. Seeing George Floyd defenseless and begging for his life has burned a hole in so many of our psyches but for many Black people in America, George Floyd’s murder was another reminder of the long list of lives that’ve been stolen from our legacy.
As our society is starting to feel a sliver of the frustration and outrage that Black people in America have felt for a long time, I'm reminded of the first time I felt this pain. In 1999 I was a 17-year-old teenager when the murder of 23-year-old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo ripped my tender spirit. Amadou Diallo was living in New York and shortly after midnight, in the stairway entrance of his residence, he was confronted by four plain-clothes police officers. As Amadou reached for his wallet, the officers fired a total of 41 shots at him with 19 of the 41 bullets hitting Diallo’s defenseless body. His last breath painfully crossed his lips and his lifeless body collapsed in agony crashing to the ground.
Diallo was only a few years older than me at the time and I couldn’t accept how his life was taken so carelessly by those meant to serve and protect our society. I was angry, hurt, frustrated, bitter, and so much more, all at once, and for so long these emotions shaped how I viewed American society. Amadou’s murder gained some national attention and brought forth minor policy changes to the NYPD but within a year all four officers were acquitted of second-degree murder. This acquittal was just another exclamation mark on my psyche to the reality that the taking of Black life in America didn’t impact American society nearly as much as it impacted Black America.
In my lifetime Amadou became the first of far too many Black men and women who would die at the hands of racially motivated violence. Over the next couple of decades, more Amadous emerged, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, and the list keeps growing as I write this. Sadly I know there will be many more George Floyds in my lifetime because racism, like many forms of discrimination, is a disease we've yet learned to defeat.