George was only 46

Dear President Biden,

I know you’re busy, but I hope you’re following Derek Chauvin’s trial, including either listening to the eye witnesses’ testimony or reading thorough accounts of it. You need to see and feel what these people went through and how not being able to help George Floyd has left them shattered. You also need to see and feel how incredibly brave they were to confront Chauvin and the other police officers – they were so vulnerable themselves in that horrible situation but they kept filming and kept pleading and yelling on George’s behalf.

It will also be good for you to see the depths the defense attorney is sinking to in his attempt to paint Chauvin as the victim in the situation. It’s really quite stunning. I know that as defense council, he has to mount some sort of defense, but in working to make it seem that Chauvin felt so under attack from the civilians who were trying to get him to stop killing George that he couldn’t pay attention to the impact he was having on his victim’s neck is horrible. And stupid. I mean there was no point during the incident during which Chauvin looked anything but arrogant and maliciously in control. It’s total bullshit that he was the one who was scared. I hope after this is all over that the defense attorney is forced to take down his shingle and use it for kindling because he can’t make another dime in his old profession.

This may seem like a non-sequitur, but there’s another artist I want you to know about. His name is Adrian Brandon and his series Stolen was featured on the Colossal website. Stolen is a series of portraits that Brandon has been doing for a few years to honor individuals who were killed by police. At this point there are almost 60 such portraits. Brandon first makes a line drawing of the person’s face and then he gives himself 1 minute for each year the person was alive to add color; 12 minutes for Tamir Rice, 46 minutes for George Floyd, 26 minutes for Breonna Taylor. They are gorgeous and they are beyond sad. And infuriating.

On his website there’s a sped up film of him coloring in the lower portion of Marzues Scott’s face for 35 minutes. The frantic pace of the film feels really apropos since Brandon is battling time, knowing that not only will he lose and the image he’s creating will be unfinished, but that there’s a huge hole in the universe where the subject of his work should be since that person was taken out long before their natural time. He’s also contending with the fact (and I use “the fact” very deliberately here) that he himself is one broken taillight away from the same fate. It’s heartbreaking to read his statement:

“As a person of color, I know that my future can be stolen from me if I’m driving with a broken taillight, or playing my music too loud, or reaching for my phone at the wrong time.”

Shit – what’s too loud? For whom? How can loud music or a broken taillight or reaching for one’s cell phone “at the wrong time” possibly be grounds for police to kill a person?

Ah, but this is America. This is what we do, day in and day out. This is US.

If we hold anyone accountable, we shrug off the weight of the incident by claiming that individual was a bad apple. More often, here in America, we find ways to excuse murder when it comes to White police officers killing Black people.

Maybe this time will be different. Maybe Chauvin will be found guilty and there will be a real, extended reckoning with the systemic racism that fuels the Chauvins of our world. Maybe. I hope so. We’ll see.

Whatever happens with the verdict, please listen to those brave people who tried to help George. When the trial is over, please reach out to them. They need to know you see them and that you care.

May we all be safe to play our music or have broken taillights.
May we all be willing to stop and help.
May we be strong enough to stop propping up racist systems.
May we accept that we can’t be ok until we do.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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