Commentary: Hurt, pain and tragedy come with the death of George Floyd

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: Hurt, pain and tragedy come with the death of George Floyd
June 03
15:07 2020

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Being a black man in the United States of America is dangerous and deadly. If you are black and male, you know this to be true. George Floyd, a black man found out first-hand about this reality. He took some of his last breaths calling out for his mama.

George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on Monday, May 25, in a scene that has left us numb and speechless. Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes and he succumbed. Three other officers looked on while Chauvin committed this horrific and unspeakable act.

On Friday, Derek Chauvin was charged with 3rd degree murder and 2nd degree manslaughter. Many people believe that Chauvin should be charged with murder in the 1st degree. The other three officers have not been charged. I believe in the coming days that these three policemen will be charged, as they were witnesses to a murder. They stood by and did nothing. Dr. Cornel West, professor emeritus at Princeton University, said on CNN a few days ago that America has a failed criminal justice system.

The intentional killing of George Floyd has hit a bitter and rock bottom nerve with many Americans. Protests are happening in Boston, Las Vegas, Denver, Atlanta and Minneapolis. These protests have spread around the world to London and Paris.

People of all hues are fed up and torn up with the blatant and unjustified killing of African American men. Men who look like me are shot to death at point blank range and choked until dead by the police. We see these atrocities, these acts of brutality, and are left afraid of the very people that are charged with protecting us, the police.

However, with these protests have come looting and violence. That is wrong. Our frustration cannot turn into violence. Keisha Lance Bottoms, mayor of Atlanta said, “This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.”

City, state and federal officials have pledged to launch thorough and complete investigations. How many times have we as African Americans heard the words “thorough and complete” attached to investigations involving us? Those words have become frail and puny.

The governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, asked the people of Minnesota to stay at home on Saturday. There has been an 8 p.m. curfew issued for the city of Minneapolis. There are reports that say outside groups are responsible for the looting and pilfering. It is my opinion that these dissidents will be identified and prosecuted.

These mob demonstrations must stop because they are taking precedence over what is happening. Unfortunately, there are those in this country who do not want to hear about George Floyd.

The family of George Floyd is now seeking justice. Civil Rights attorney Benjamin Crump is leading their efforts. While the video shows one thing, there will be other unknown elements that are sure to surface. What America saw was a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department put his knee on a man’s neck for over 7 minutes until he was dead. Chauvin had 17 complaints against him with only two reprimands. That is not a good police record. 

Now in the coming weeks, America must try to come together and heal. If you are white and you believe in right, now is your time to stand up. Your silence can no longer be the answer. Being mute about race makes us all victims. Your white privilege has given you immunity from racism. This must stop and you must join us in this quest for equality.

Leaders from the city of Minneapolis will weigh in and have their say. Alicia Smith, a community organizer in the city said, “My kids are little boys, and my son asked me, ‘am I gonna live to be a grown-up?’ I gotta ruin his innocence and tell him how to exist as a young black boy in this country.”

At this sad moment in our nation, the answers are few. We have tried diversity and sensitivity training. They have had mixed results.

The pivotal question in improving race relations is, how do you change someone’s heart? When will patience and understanding be practiced and not just be words? 

America, we need answers.

James B. Ewers Jr. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator and can be reached at

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