Local reaction to the death of George Floyd, a black man who reportedly gasped for air and pleaded for his life while his neck was constrained by a white police officer during an arrest in Minnesota, has sparked outrage. The case has many activists drawing comparisons to Eric Garner’s 2014 death in Tompkinsville, where a police officer put Garner in a fatal chokehold.
As a lifelong Staten Islander who says she’s experienced racism firsthand in her own hometown, Tanisha Smith Franks, a notable activist and educator on the North Shore said it was both painful and infuriating to watch the news out of Minnesota.
“Because we’ve seen it before. Eric Garner. We’ve seen it before. It’s like it keeps happening,” said Smith Franks.
But, she said something struck her as different after George Floyd’s death that she said makes her hopeful for the future. She said young people swiftly stood up and made their voices heard in a variety of ways, including her own 19-year-old daughter, who joined a number of Black Lives Matter protests.
“They’re the ones that pump life back into the civil rights movement and I am more than happy to move aside and let these young people do this work,” she explained.
And there finally appears to be a growing consensus that everyone has a role to play to make the nation a better and more just place for Black Americans, she said.
“Do we want, in 20 years, to be having the same conversation? And if the answer is no, then we all need to take a step back and do the work.”
“Do we want, in 20 years, to be having the same conversation? And if the answer is no, then we all need to take a step back and do the work,” she added.
With a background in education, she points to the complicated history of race and police relations in the country. She urges people to arm themselves with knowledge and to keep an open mind.
“Analyze the lived experiences of different populations,” she recommended. “You have to be analytical and you have to have a critical mindset and you have to ask yourself: Why is this happening in one place and not happening in another? What is the historical context? And, then: What do we do to dismantle the system that put this in place?”
Photo courtesy @keridsingleton on Instagram.