I had to go to Minneapolis. I needed to be right there on 38th Street and Chicago where George Floyd’s life was tragically stolen from him. I needed to see the people in that community — how much love they had for their community and their people and how much pain this has caused. We feel the pain go across the world — the anger and the hurt. Those visuals will never be removed from our minds.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic and instead of coming closer together and operating as one humanity, people go within and want to protect the focus on an old mind-sets of classism and racism. This doesn’t have to exist anymore. People are searching for a new normal. I don’t want to go back to our old normal — clearly that was killing us on many levels.
What we need is a new normal, a new paradigm.
I want us to focus on our humanity and dismantling racist systems that we don’t need that perpetuate crimes of inequality and oppress communities of color all over our country. We have to dismantle all of those systems that this country was built on.
That’s why so many people get it wrong when it comes to racism. People think ‘Oh no, I’m not a racist.’ But if you support this system, you support racism. If you don’t step up and say this system has been wrong for years — from the war on drugs to criminalization of black men in general to the school-to-prison pipeline to the prison industrial complex. It’s a form of modern-day slavery. There are more black men in jail today then there were enslaved [in the 19th century]. These are concepts that people overlook daily. Unfortunately, it takes a matter like George Floyd for people to say ‘I didn’t know this. It didn’t hit my feed. It wasn’t part of our daily conversation.’
If we’re going to talk about what the solutions are, it has to be complete reform of not just a police department but of policing in general. I think it starts by removing the word ‘police.’ Why be a police officer when you can be a peace officer? When you see a police officer, you’re supposed to feel safe. They’re supposed to protect you. My kids are scared of police officers. In their minds, they’re the bad guys.
This is clearly the problem. What happened to George Floyd has been going on for years and years. Now technology has given us another liberty — to see first hand what is going on. Now that we can see it we have got to hold them accountable. From excessive force to murder — everything we see, we have to hold them accountable — including the so-called good cops standing by allowing this to happen. One bad cop isn’t acting alone. There are several other bad cops allowing that one to do what he is doing.
I’m finding signs of hope in both mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul. To see them respond immediately with care and compassion was the right thing to do. I saw a lot of pain and disappointment in their law enforcement. Being at 38th and Chicago and seeing people crying at the memorial — it was disappointment more than anything. They didn’t think something like this would happen in Minneapolis. But it did. This is what America is. If it can happen in Minneapolis, it could happen in Georgia and it can happen in Los Angeles and it can happen in New York.
The same thing that made me go to Minneapolis is the same thing that made me go to Ferguson and to Charlottesville and to jails in Cook County and Washington, D.C., and to study criminology at Howard University. I did not want to be another celebrity tweeting or reposting a picture. I want to be authentic and educated and informed. I had to go to it.
As told to Cynthia Littleton