Everyone's tired, but no one is more tired than the Black Americans who’ve been in the national spotlight for 10 days now. As you already know, and still need to be reminded of, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed on May 25 while under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer with an extensive record of violence against citizens.
I struggled with how to write about the incident and the loaded aftermath rising up like a tidal wave behind it. The emotional and historical narrative was all so complicated, so I settled on trying to write a straightforward story that might help anti-Kaepernick friends experiencing a change of heart better recognize—and then act on—their newfound discovery that peaceful protests are to be listened to. The piece wouldn’t push too hard on folks finally realizing that all lives truly can’t matter until Black ones do (they're delicate, y'all). Tampa Bay artist Tes One even mocked up a powerful cover driven by his own raw emotions surrounding the event.
Not so fast.
Turns out that trying to even start down a journey that addresses the path forward is not meant to be a casual affair. A conversation with NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans—whose 2012 book “Race Baiter” explores how pundits play on old prejudices and deep-rooted fears to reel in narrow and devoted audiences—reminded me how shameful it is to watch the media rush to stories like Floyd’s. Deggans said that was one of the problems we have when talking about race.
“Few media outlets want to have these conversations outside of a crisis, when people are polarized and emotional,” he told me. “I also think there's a danger in trying to have complex, nuanced conversations like this at a time when feelings are raw because a huge injustice is in the air.”
So in the absence of emotional distance and more facts about what happened to Floyd—plus what might happen to the officers involved in his death—I decided to push that story to the June 11 issue and move forward building this week's book (on stands Thursday) in your hand around some of the week’s news and contributor-driven special features on Black-owned restaurants plus local theater. Then the charges (murder in the third degree) arrived along with video of escalating protests that led to a fire at the 3rd precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department. Demonstrations in other cities followed; Tampa and St. Petersburg were no exceptions.
The last few days have been dizzying. A St. Pete church did a figurative mic-drop with its sign about racism. A teacher was forced to resign from Gaither High School after his comments in the “Right Wing Death Squad” Facebook group were exposed. There was the local news about Friday and Saturday’s peaceful protests, but also a narrative about looting and white supremacist agitators arriving in Tampa. Then the photos and reporting from Sunday marches started coming in. Some contributors described the emotional toll.
“That was the scariest thing of my whole life. I knew the bullets were nonlethal, but holy fuck that was terrifying,” writer Anna Bryson told me in a text on Saturday. Photographer Dave Decker put it even more plainly: “That was the most intense thing I have ever experienced. And I robbed a bank.”
On Monday night, I checked in with Ashley Dieudonne who was practically inside the buildings and gas stations getting looted on Saturday. We’re supposed to talk about the unexpected emotional toll on Tuesday.
All that—along with non-protest items like sewage spills, a big win for a local cyclist, the potential demolition of the old Seminole Heights Baptist Church and CL’s own coronavirus revenue situation was wrangled up by our contributors and the full-time editorial staff of two over the last few hours. It’s in your hands now, and like I said: We’re kind of beat up.
But our weariness can’t even begin to pale in comparison to the fatigue that sits on the shoulders of Black Americans who’ve carried the load and residual effects of both white colonialism and police brutality on their shoulders for generations. Those stories must always be told, and while I tried to counter Deggans’ point by saying that Creative Loafing Tampa Bay has always written about race, much to the chagrin of our “stick to arts, music and events” fans, we can always do better. I hope all our readers realize that for themselves and act on it, no matter who’s in the headlines that week.
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