Imagine, if world record holder,Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj, running at speeds equaling his world record mile time of 3:43.13, without stopping; did it twice. Wait, wait just to show off his dominance, he ran for another one minute and 34 seconds. I think you would marvel at his stamina, and his ability to accomplish such a gargantuan feat, most of us cannot imagine going that long and that hard at anything. Former police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee pressed to the back of George Floyd’s neck for 8:46, the length of time it would take Hicham El Guerrouj to run 2 1/3 miles, at his record pace. Sometimes, things have to be explained in such a way, even Donald Trump can understand.
I do not know Mr. Chauvin but as I took the eight-minute walk to cast my vote for Joe Biden in the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary yesterday, each step and each minute reminded me of the time it took Mr. Floyd to die. I knew the length of the walk because after first taking a 15-minute walk to what is no longer my polling place, I came home made a few calls, and Google-mapped the correct place. The COVID-19 virus is the stated reason that polling places were reduced [and mine moved] from 831 to 190 in the city of Philadelphia. An interesting side note, my temporary voting place is closer than my customary polling station (aghhhh, just my paranoia).
I am old enough to, unfortunately, remember seeing the violent reactions, the chants, the sign-carrying, tear gas, and batons cutting through the smoke to bash bones and heads. I remember my fear as a 12-year old little black boy in Washington D.C., seeing rosy-cheeked, blonde-haired barely adult soldiers carrying M-14s on the corners of my neighborhood blocks. What I had hoped was that the faded scar above the eye of the late Elijah Cummings or the healed fractured skull of John Lewis and the blood of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would not be visited upon my grandchildren.
Alas, here I am again…
Staring at my TV screen in wide-eyed wonderment, like a child, trying to understand, I had hoped not to see neighborhoods burn night after night ever again. Unfortunately, the DNA of America carries the accelerant of genocide and racism.
Calls for dogs, troops, and mass shootings in retaliation for protest by the head of government, no less, is an awful slap in the face of progress. I was buoyed today, by my unofficial count of 70% of the people voting from my neighborhood, being under the age of thirty, many of whom appeared to be 18 and 19-year-olds. I had to leave town unexpectantly a few weeks ago and missed the opportunity to mail in my ballot, I am glad I went to the polls. I saw kids holding the hands of their moms and dads asking, ‘why are these people standing in line?’ Young people adorned in fashionably appropriate, ensemble matching masks. Older people supported by canes mopping their brows and being offered folding chairs for their long wait.
I believe that a lot of those people were spurred onward by the death of George Floyd. They and I were willing to risk disease for George Floyd. My great-grandmother raised me and use to say “enough is enough and too much stinks” she could not vote for 64 of her 79 years of life. For George Floyd, I hope what I saw today means black people have decided to get America off our necks for good.
Vote in 2020 for Change.