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Mis Ángeles: George Floyd Should Be Home With His Family Right Now

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(Photo illustration by Chava Sanchez/KPCC)

My nephew was supposed to have his 8th grade graduation on Thursday, but the coronavirus killed those plans. So we had a little family celebration at home with a jumper and a carne asada. My sister Cynthia had a big sign made for him that said, "Congratulations Angel."

She hung the sign and a bunch of balloons outside the front yard fence that faces Imperial Highway. It was there all day. After she gave a speech saying how proud she was, we had a strawberry cake she baked with a side of chocolate chip ice cream.

I was sitting there eating it when a young black kid stood in front of the graduation sign. He couldn't have been older than 18. He looked fresh in his red t-shirt over a white one, so you could see white trim sticking out his sleeves and waist. His jeans were blue. So was his mask, which the young man lowered down his mouth, pointed and yelled, "This is for you, Angel!" Then he began to dance a dope choreographed number.

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I wondered if he was going around doing it for all the graduates, since Thursday was graduation day in all of Downey. Thursday is also my deadline to finish writing Mis Ángeles. I'm supposed to be writing about this resilient family business. But I'm at a loss for words.

The young black kid's routine ended with the same energy and spirit as it began and the young man ran off fast--a flash of red, white and blue ... and black.

Even if you don't want to see it, this country was made "great" on the backs of Black, Brown, Asian, Indigenous and Immigrant communities, who rarely get either the praise or even the benefits of the system we prop up.

George Floyd was supposed to be home with his family right now. But a Minneapolis police officer with a history of misconduct named Derek Chauvin knelt right on his neck and did not let up for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, even as Floyd cried out that he could not breathe, even as he appeared lifeless. In fact, the criminal complaint against Chauvin states he kept Floyd pinned down for 2 minutes and 53 seconds "after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive." Chauvin is in custody now, charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

It's apparent to me that Chauvin killed George Floyd and would not have faced justice had protests in Minneapolis and across the country forced Chauvin's arrest four whole days later.

It's not right and you know it. God, I hope you know it.

Even if you're a cop or a lover of cops, even if you vote conservative or liberal or the middle, even if you hate the "lame stream media" and woke culture, I hope you know it. I hope you're not one of those people who emails me and calls me subhuman because I'm Mexican. But even if you are, I hope you see that it is wrong for black men to be killed simply for being black.

Because hope is all I got right now.

The news of Floyd's death comes on the heels of a viral video showed the brazen murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and another that showed a white woman in New York's Central Park trying to essentially sic the police on a black man who had the audacity of asking her to put a leash on her dog.

When video of the Minneapolis arrest went viral, Chauvin and the three other police officers who stood and watched him choke the life out of Floyd with his knee tried to claim Floyd resisted arrest. Other video footage contradicts their claim. They were fired. And until the arrest today, that was it. Most of us have been fired for a lot less than homicide. It shouldn't take destruction and outrage for justice to be served.

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This country, man. It just breaks my heart over and over again until all I can do is nothing. Because what else am I supposed to do? Write a poignant tweet? Change my Facebook photo to some "resistance" filter?

Or should I burn down the system that allows this to go on? It's been happening in South Minneapolis, in Louisville. People in Los Angeles have been protesting in the streets, too. I could easily join in but there's that big green sign for Angel and there's the dancing king. There's young people of color all around me. And I need to leave this world a better place for them.

I just don't know what the best way to do that is.

There are no good options. So I'm just sitting in my front yard on a Thursday trying to hang on to hope but feeling like it's racist deja vu all over again.

Twenty-eight years ago, I was in the 4th grade when Los Angeles was beset by upheaval over the injustice of the Rodney King trial. The fires and looting from protestors reached the outer edges of my elementary school and school officials told us to run home. I was afraid the cops would see us running and shoot us, but running was our only option. I'll never forget that fear as we ran.

Nineteen years ago, I was in 12th grade when an undercover police officer pulled me over and gave me a swift beating because I was wearing a red bandana tied around my head like I'd seen Tupac Shakur do. He said he was doing it to save my life because if "they saw you like that they'd smoke you up." I didn't ask who "they" were. I was just glad I didn't get a ticket.

Imagine that. I was happy I didn't have to pay for a racist beat down.

Ten years ago, I was a young journalist in D.C. during President Barack Obama's first term. I used to walk through the Newseum's Pulitzer Prize section where they had a collection of prize-winning photos of racist lynchings. One day, I asked my photographer friend what she would have done if she was a journalist during a scene like that. She said she would have probably taken the photo because it has more power to prevent many more lynchings than to stop the one lynching.

I guess that made sense at the time. But I remember her answer just made me feel helpless to change the past. I guess I thought I'd somehow change the future.

But this present ... man.

So I'm just sitting here in Southeast Los Angeles on a Thursday thinking about the black kid who just danced and the brown kid who just graduated middle school.

And I'm trying to hang on to hope for all of us.

About theMis Ángeles column: Erick Galindo is chronicling life in Los Angeles for LAist. He took on this role after serving as our immigrant communities reporter. Erick came to us last year from LA Taco, where he was the managing editor.