Collective In-breath for George Floyd
As a nation, we are in mourning. Whatever our race and spiritual traditions, we’re forced into a mass moment of deep, yogic-like reflection, intentionally breathing our way through the grief of Co-Vid and George Floyd. Ironically, we’re masking our physical faces at the very moment our spiritual selves are unmasking long-held expectations and traditions.
What happened to George Floyd was the latest among centuries of indignities, many known and even more unknown. In the wake of WWI and the 1918 Flu Epidemic, thousands of African Americans were killed by vigilantes sanctioned by law enforcement in multiple cities during the Red Summer Riots of 1919. Even today, little is known of those horrendous acts, partially because martial law imposed gag orders throughout entire communities.
One critical difference between then and now is the ability to observe events firsthand through technology – and disseminate it widely through the actions of ordinary people. A teen girl with a cell phone shot the pivotal image of George Floyd’s last moments and the police officer’s smirk and apparent indifference.
Today, a wide swath of people of all persuasions are in the process of newfound recognition and social healing. We’ve moved out of our heads and into our hearts. In my decades of racial justice work, I’ve never seen such a wide outpouring. Hate crimes flourish in silence. As a victim advocate, I’ve witnessed cross burnings where nobody uttered a sympathetic word to the victim, wanting to spare feelings by not bringing up an awkward subject. But their silence only left victims feeling doubly isolated.
Racial conversations are not always easy. But when incidents happen, it’s far easier for all of us to feel safe if the topic of racial justice and healing is already underway. In this regard, my role model is my own father. In the years following WWII, anti-Japanese sentiment ran high, even among Japanese Americans. Moving into a new neighborhood, my Japanese American father went door-to-door, personally introducing himself to neighbors, extending a hand of friendship along with the hope that there wouldn’t be any trouble. There never was. In bravely broaching the subject first, he had won their friendship – and respect.
Do we have all the answers? No. Do we have all the right language to even ask the right questions, in a way that will be universally understood? No.
But real reform will take ordinary people, making common sense first steps. It took one teen with a steady camera to cut through the rhetoric -- the narratives about fake news, the confusion over semantics and emotionally laden, patriotic symbols.
We’re across the threshold. We’re holding conversations – media res, mid-story. Who carried us there? One youth and millions upon millions of ordinary people. Together, there’s a new willingness to listen -- to each other and to our collective stories.
But there’s also an expectation – that we are better than this.
Let the healing begin.
For more information on places to donate and other activities to remember George Floyd, I recommend the website 2020protests.com, an excellent national site developed by a Mercer Island high school student.
*Deni Luna has been cited in more than 1,000 news articles on hate crimes and racism. She is also an East West reader who maintains a heart-based approach to both intuition and political expediency, saying: “You can’t do any of this from the neck up.”