A Message from Rosa Colquitt, PhD, Chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon’s Black Caucus
On May 26, most Americans woke up to the news of a disturbing video showing 46-year-old George Floyd pinned to the concrete with the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on his neck. After more than seven minutes being pinned under the pressure of the officer’s knee, Mr. Floyd ultimately died.
My reaction as a Black mother was to hold my adult son to my bosom, to never release him, to protect him with my very life. I am incapable of speaking the fear inside of me for my Black son. I know I voice the sentiments of black mothers all over the country. Whites express grief: “How horrible, how wrong, yet again — it must stop.” Black Americans say, “Oh yes, again, who’s next?”
Weeks earlier, America witnessed the unspeakable trauma and grief over the killing of 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor while sleeping in her home in Louisville, Kentucky, by police officers serving a no-knock arrest warrant on her boyfriend. And more recently, the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery while jogging in Glynn County, Georgia, by an armed father-son duo, supposedly for a “suspected robbery.” No doubt this is a month of national reckoning for Black people and for all conscientious Americans, all in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black Americans.
Rev. Dr. Bernice King, youngest daughter of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tweeted a picture of the police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck alongside a picture of Colin Kaepernick kneeling at a football game to protest the shootings of unarmed Black men by police. She wrote in part, “If you’re unbothered or mildly bothered by the first knee but outraged by the second, then in my father’s words, you’re more devoted to order than to justice.” Bernice King speaks profoundly to a nation so badly in need of healing.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the nation this afternoon about the killing of George Floyd. After speaking with Mr. Floyd’s family, Biden addressed the lack of presidential leadership in his speech, as well as the history connected to Floyd’s death. Part of the Vice President’s speech follows:
“Once again we heard the words, ‘I can’t breathe.’ An act of brutality so elemental, it did more than deny one more black man of America his civil rights and his human rights, it denied him of his very humanity, it denied him of his life … The same thing happened with Arbery, the same thing happened with Breonna Taylor, the same thing with George Floyd … they’re the latest additions to the endless list of stolen potential, wiped out unnecessarily. It’s a list that dates back more than 400 years, black men, black women, black children. The original sin of this country still stains our nation today, and sometimes we manage to overlook it. We just push forward with a thousand other tasks in our daily life, but it’s always there. On weeks like this, we see it plainly that we are a country with an open wound, and none of us can turn away, none of us can be silent. None of us can any longer — can we hear the words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ and do nothing.”
Biden went on to say it’s not a time for tweets and encouraging violence, but a time for leadership in a national crisis.
The leadership of the Democratic Party of Oregon strenuously rejects the unwarranted killings of Black Americans. The very core of both our Platform and our belief system as Democrats is about the equality of all. But in the wake of yet another senseless killing, we face the sad reality that our advocacy and even our most heartfelt, passionate beliefs were not enough to save George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the thousands who came before. The most virtuous beliefs mean nothing if they are not lived; the most comprehensive of policies are feckless if they are not promoted and enforced; and our visions of marching toward a truly more perfect union will go dark without all of us forging a path forward together.
May our passion and commitment, as well as our rage and grief, bring all of us together to fight this horrific and deadly disease that is racism.
Rosa Colquitt, PhD
Democratic Party of Oregon Black Caucus