Juwan Lee

George Floyd's death at the hands – or rather the knee – of police office Derek Chauvin has sparked protests nationwide, some of them violent and destructive.

I can't condone senseless violence, but I understand some of the rage and frustration that fuels it. My people are tired of an unjust justice system that doesn't treat all Americans equally.

Too, many black Americans are tired of explaining their pain to people who make no effort to understand it. Many white Americans appear equally tired of hearing about the pain racism causes.

So how do we even start this conversation?

As a young African American writer, I struggle to find words for the unspeakable emotions that arise when I witness a police officer stepping on the neck of an unarmed, handcuffed black man while he pleads for his life.

When will they hear our cries? When will they realize they're hurting us?

I watched footage of George Floyd, 46, struggle for eight minutes and 46 seconds, while begging Minneapolis officers to let him breathe. I watched until Floyd used his dying breath to call out to his deceased mother: “Momma! Momma! I’m through.”

I had witnessed a live execution that I could only, helplessly, watch as anger and frustration choked me. Hours later, I had no words to describe the depth of my feelings. Even if I had found the words, I had no faith they would be received, much less understood.

I'm heartbroken because no matter how much pain and emotion I bleed into this column there will always be some who choose to not understand.

Still, I see a few reasons for hope.

To its credit, the police department in Minneapolis fired all four officers involved in the incident. I also was encouraged that, this week, Palestine Police Chief Mark Harcrow condemned Chauvin's actions in no uncertain terms.

On Friday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced murder and manslaughter charges against Derek Chauvin.

On the same day, sadness overwhelmed me as I called my mother in Dallas. Holding the phone, I shed tears for George Floyd's senseless death.

I tried to hide this moment of weakness from my mother, but I couldn't shake the horrifying image of Floyd, helplessly, calling for his mother.

I know that, whatever I say, some people won't understand. They will never grasp, or even acknowledge, my pain, or my parents' fear when I travel to a new town to cover a game, as they worry I may never come home.

How can I tell George Floyd's family and friends everything will be all right? Until all Americans understand the hurt his death caused, that day will remain a long way off.

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