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9 Minutes

The following is an article by Jason Webb - a Milwaukee-based public speaker and an advocate of racial reconciliation, dedicated to the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, MN.

Originally published on theodysseyonline.com
 

For 9 minutes we knelt. In silence. In protest.
 

I did not think it would feel like it did. After all, what are 9 minutes? It's just a quick moment. On a normal day, 9 minutes is nothing. So as I knelt, I didn't think I would feel much. 9 minutes is nothing, I convinced myself. I would kneel for a moment and then head home and back to my normal life.
 

A friend stood up in front of the crowd and challenged us to think about what we were doing there during the 9 minutes. He encouraged us to feel uncomfortable. I thought it was a bit extreme. It's just 9 minutes after all!

The 9 minutes began. I got my phone out to make sure I documented it. To be honest, I was more concerned with getting just the right photo that would look good on Instagram then I was about taking in the moment. After a few different tries, I felt successful in my efforts to document it. But then I looked around and nobody else was worried about getting the right photo. They knelt, silently, reverently.

So I put the phone away.

Soon the 9 minutes felt like 9 hours. I kept waiting to be told the time was up and we could all go home. But it kept dragging on and on and on.

As the seconds seemed to be stalled, I started to think about the reason we were there. I thought about George Floyd. The images of the video ran through my head. 9 minutes with a knee on his neck. 9 minutes. So short but so long.

For 9 minutes he was pinned to the ground under the force of someone who was charged to protect him. For 9 minutes his breath, the very thing that everyone deserves to have, was slowly taken from him. For 9 minutes he was treated as less than human. For 9 minutes he struggled, wondering why these men of the law were killing him.

For 9 minutes his life flashed before his eyes. For 9 minutes all his dreams and hopes for the future vanished. For 9 minutes he, a grown man, cried out for his mom. For 9 minutes, he became a victim of hate.

For 9 minutes he went from discomfort to pain. For 9 minutes he begged for mercy, "I can't breathe," he cried. For 9 minutes they took from him the one thing that makes us all human: breath.

For 9 minutes he was tortured. For 9 minutes he was lynched.

In my 9 minutes kneeling in that park, I thought of his 9 minutes. I looked over to my 16-year-old son who is black. I thought of him. I thought of him being pinned down just because he was black. I thought of him, who is one of the kindest souls I know, being vilified because of his skin color. I thought of him struggling for his life for 9 minutes.

9 minutes. So short. So long.

9 minutes. So painful. So powerful.

9 minutes that should never have happened. 9 minutes that happen too often. 9 minutes that we all now see.

Yet 9 minutes that have woken up a world to injustice, to hate.

9 minutes that call us all to action.

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