The Agony of Emmett Till and George Floyd

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Emmett Till.

I thought about Emmett Till as I watched the video of George Perry Floyd dying in the street. I can never forget George calling for his mother before taking his final breath. “I wonder if my child cried out for me?” said Mamie Till Mobley as she talked about the night her 14-year-old son was brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi, in 1955.

One can only imagine her agony regarding her only child. The pain she must have felt about her decision to let him go “down South,” a trip that would cost him his young, precious life.

In 1955, parents knew they must have “the talk” with their sons and daughters before sending them to spend the summer in the South. In 2020, parents know they must have that same talk if their child is walking to the corner store in New York City.

The truth is, there are rules for Black folks! Rules for their children! Don’t do this and don’t do that. The list is long to stay alive.

Like most teenagers, Emmett did not understand that there was a price to pay if you didn’t follow the rules on that list. Six decades later, his accuser, Carolyn Bryant, admitted to author Timothy Tyson that Emmett didn’t break the evil rules of racism. She admitted that her story about young Emmett whistling at her was a lie. He said nothing disrespectful. Even with her admission, there is still no justice for Emmett!

Now the question is … will there be justice for George Floyd? There was no justice for all the Black men and women murdered between 1955 and 2020. There has been no justice dating back 401 years, when the first slave ship arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.

George Floyd was 46 years old, not 14 like Emmett. He lived in Minneapolis, not Mississippi. He was not murdered late in the midnight hour in a barn and dumped in a river. George was murdered in broad daylight in front of numerous people, with a cellphone camera rolling.

He was accused of trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill, but we have no proof that it was fake. If it was counterfeit, there is no proof that he knew. The laws in place for trying to use a counterfeit bill do not include a knee in your neck for almost nine minutes. The punishment is not death.

What will happen to the men responsible for George Floyd leaving us? Since his death, people have protested around the world. Conversations about passing laws to protect Black people from the very police that are supposed to protect them have begun.

People from every generation and race are screaming “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe.” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser marched with protesters and changed a section of 16th Street NW to Black Lives Matter Plaza.

We have not seen this magnitude of protesting since the civil rights era. So many lives were lost during the movement. The list of deaths is longer than the rules for Black folks. Names like Jimmie Lee Jackson, the four little girls in Birmingham, Malcolm X and Dr. King
stand out in the history books.

So here we are. As we wait for justice, we cry for George Floyd! We hear George’s cry for his deceased mother. Emmett Till’s cry that we didn’t hear is embedded in our souls. We hear the original cry! The cry of agony from our ancestors on the slave ship as they crossed the ocean into the unknown.

George Floyd.
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