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Guest Column
After George Floyd’s murder, America needs an eye exam | Column
We keep having these morbid anniversaries of Black men’s deaths because too many people have turned a blind eye to injustice.
People gather at Cup Foods after a guilty verdict was announced last month at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
People gather at Cup Foods after a guilty verdict was announced last month at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) [ MORRY GASH | AP ]
Published May 21, 2021|Updated May 21, 2021

In March of 1991, the world watched as Rodney King was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers. In 2001, I watched a program about the 10th anniversary of the beating, not knowing that just a month later, in April 2001, the Cincinnati riots would break out after the police killing of an unarmed 19-year-old Black man named Timothy Thomas.

Geveryl Robinson
Geveryl Robinson [ Provided ]

Then, 10 years later in March 2011, Travis McNeil, a 28-year-old unarmed Black man was fatally shot by Miami police officers as he sat in the driver’s seat of his rental car. McNeil was the seventh Black man to have been killed by Miami police in eight months. And now, 10 years later, here we are again recognizing another anniversary of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, who was brutally murdered for all the world to see on May 25, 2020, a year ago Tuesday. After the Rodney King 10th anniversary special, I sat down and wrote the only poem I’ve ever written.

***

“farsighted”

my eyes are the color of

emmett till, medgar evers,

and 4 little black girls

who even with 20/20 vision

couldn’t see the bomb coming.

my glasses are tinted with

the blood-stained cotton from

mississippi, and the strange fruit

hanging from the carolina pines,

where the red, white and blue

stand for blood, cotton and bruises.

my prescription hasn’t changed

in 400 years, even though

my eye chart reads

L

A N D

O F T H E

F R E E

maybe i’ll get another doctor.

maybe i’ll get a new prescription.

or maybe ... maybe i’ll just

go blind.

***

I wrote that 20 years ago, and at that time, I was filled with rage and a sense of hopelessness. But now, I understand that the reason why we keep having these morbid anniversaries is because too many people have turned a blind eye to injustice.

See, too many are focused on policing people’s speech while turning a blind eye to policing the police. Too many people would rather have “polite” or “politically correct” conversations about racism, while turning a blind eye to the fact that racism is neither polite nor politically correct to those who are oppressed.

Too many employers would rather create equity and inclusion positions while turning a blind eye that their lack of equity and inclusion in the first place is what caused the need for those positions.

Yeah, too many Christians would rather focus on the scripture that says, “Thou shalt not kill,” while turning a blind eye to the scripture that says, “Seek justice; defend the oppressed.” Too many politicians/educators would rather begin our nation’s history at 1776, while turning a blind eye to the fact that 1776-157=1619, which is where the history lessons should begin.

What I’ve realized in the 30 years since the Rodney King beating is that my vision is perfectly clear. It’s the vision of far too many that needs to be corrected. Because the truth is, it’s not me who needs a new prescription; it’s America that needs new eyes.

Geveryl Robinson is an instructor of English at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and a former columnist for the Savannah Morning News.