By Wendy-Akua Adjei; The Whetstone
Wesley alumnus Da’Quan Martin said he was very upset when he heard what happened to George Floyd, the black man killed when a white police officer kept a knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds in Minneapolis last Memorial Day.
“The emotion I felt at that time was anger,” he said. “A lot of it because I’m tired of seeing the same results with the same people in the same uniform. There were real chills running down my body as I was standing outside in the heat on an 88-degree day.”
Students, faculty, and staff at Wesley were mostly sad and not surprised to see or hear about the killing of George Floyd. This incident stirred up feelings of the deep wound of racial anger and bewilderment in the United States and is well reflected at Wesley College.
North Campus Area Coordinator Jovana Fitzgerald said Floyd’s death affected her family.
“It sparked a lot of interesting conversations within my household.” she said. “Trayvon Martin (Martin, a 17-year-old Black youth, was killed in 2012 when George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, who is white, shot him in Sanford, Fla.) was one of the cases that I kept thinking about and that my mother and I talked about. My mom is white, so when I was growing up it was hard for me to talk to her about cases like Floyd and Martin.”
Professor of Religion Jeffrey Mask said he was sad that Black people continue to be killed by the police.
“My first reaction hearing about Floyd was, ‘Not again,’” Mast, who is white, said. “How many times is this going to happen? What we’re doing with the police in America is wrong. This is nothing new in America and there isn’t a political will to do something about it.”
Floyd’s death was recorded and went viral on social media, re-sparked the Black Lives Matter movement last summer.
Quameshia Callwood, the director of campus life, said she was upset when she saw the video of Floyd.
“I felt enraged because his life was taken for something so insignificant as the color of his skin, and for hate,” Callwood, who is Black, said.
Floyd’s death hit home for a lot of African Americans across the country, including senior Lydia LaSure, who said she felt she had a duty to join protests in her hometown of Bridgeton, N.J.
“I felt I had to do something because it could have been me or someone I know,” LaSure, who is Black, said.
Senior Malia Smith, who is Black, said she did not attend a protest, but said Floyd could have been a loved one.
“Being Black is an unwritten crime, we always fit the profile,” she said. “It’s not just the police we fear, but racists in general. We have to be vigilant and always watch our backs.”
Christine McDermott, director of student success and retention, said she was saddened to see the video of Floyd’s death.
“I thought [the video of George Floyd’s death] was a joke at first.” McDermott, who is white, said. “But then I realized as I watched it that it wasn’t a joke. When I realized the video was real and that the officers were literally killing him, I cried.”
LaSure said she was happy to see and hear about the protests around the U.S. and in her hometown.
“We all came together to support a good cause, and it wasn’t just Black people, there were Hispanics and white people.” she said. “It was nice to see us standing together against a great injustice.”
Senior Mercy Ariyo, who is Black, said she attended protests in Philadelphia.
“It was beautiful to see Black people come together as well as the white people supporting the movement.” she said. “But we need more help from white people than just protesting.”
Senior Mariayna Lovelace, who is white, said white people need to work harder to change racism in America.
“At this time, we can’t be neutral or not have an opinion.” she said. “We must actively work to end systemic racism.”
Lovelace said the Black Lives Matter movement helped her understand “white privilege.”
“Not everyone who is white has had a perfect life, but the color of their skin is one of the things that does not make their life harder,” she said. “There are many things I never thought about that this movement has brought to my attention.”
Senior Elizabeth Manlove said white people need to realize their privilege in order to help change society.
“I am disgusted that my friends and family of color have to be worried about the things that they do because, as a white female, I realize my level of privilege.” she said. “Change will occur when people realize how things impact more than just themselves.”
Many Blacks said they are too getting too used to events such as Floyd’s death, including the deaths of Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner also have been killed presumably because they were Black.
Smith said she hated what she saw on the video that showed Floyd’s death, but wasn’t surprised.
“If I’m going to be 100 percent truthful, the video (of Floyd’s death) didn’t hit me as hard as it would have a couple years ago.” she said. “When Trayvon Martin was killed I was a lot more responsive because it was one of my very first experiences with this kind of death.”
Martin said he is no longer surprised when he sees another black person being killed.
“I’m still human with a compassionate side and that side is what gets me because no one deserves to be shot multiple times where every situation with these cops could’ve been controlled,” he said.