Caught between passion and cool.
“People don’t ask us what we think about stuff.”
— Gabriel (Gabe) Gutierrez, 18-year-old Californian and member of Generation Z
SONOMA COUNTY, Calif — I took a stand the other day by taking a knee and kept it for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time that Derek Chauvin pressed his white knee down on George Floyd’s black neck and ended his life. A bullet to his head or the heart would probably have killed him faster and been less painful. But Chauvin’s point seemed to be to make Floyd’s passing as painful as possible and with the least amount of effort on his part while Floyd struggled to breathe.
I was not the only person who took a knee outside the police department in the town where I live. Most of the other demonstrators were white adults over the age of 40, though some teenagers, and some people of color, participated. A young African-American woman who had shaved one side of her head, and arranged the hair on the other side in cornrows, told me, “I just moved to California from Utah where it feels more like a police state than it does here.”
Young African-Americans like the former Utah resident, seem to know how to make eloquent statements with their hair and their bodies with more ease than many of their white counterparts. On her face mask, in white letters on a black background, she had written George Floyd’s words, “I Can’t Breathe,” which struck me as more timely and more relevant than “Black Lives Matter.”
”I Can’t Breathe” is an urgent matter of life and death. It’s individual, universal and inclusive.