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WHAT I KNOW...Sincerely, an Exhausted, Black American Woman

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

The INDEPENDENT autopsy of George Floyd has revealed what every reasonable physician and lay person alike already knew.  George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight by asphyxiation caused by compression of the carotid artery and airway due to a 200lb man’s knee on his neck.... On LIVE camera

while he begged for his life

called out for his dead mother

lost control of his bodily functions

while fully detained

without resisting arrest

amongst a cloud of witnesses

due to an alleged, unsuccessful attempt  to pass a $20 counterfeit bill (yet unproven) while a racist Minneapolis policeman, OfficerChauvin, kneeled his knee into a man’s neck causing strangulation and death

while his 3 fellow officers either helped him die or watched him die and did nothing to prevent the murder of a compliant, cooperative and fully subdued suspect.

He endured  a knee to his neck, while the officer’s hands were casually in his pockets while wearing the face of righteous indignation

without a care in the world.

Please don’t be shocked either.  

This is America.  

This offense has yet to be called out as wrong by those who sit at the highest level of leadership in our country.  The crime was vicious, violent, sadly familiar and unabashedly wrong. If you refuse to see it or fail to acknowledge this obvious murder   - you are a racist as well. This I know.  Now you do too.  


What I Know

The fact that the family had to get an independent autopsy in order to obtain THE TRUTH that did not even require an autopsy - tells you EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW about institutional racism, inequity and corruption in America that benefits the establishment and punishes black people because it can.


What I Know

They are civilly protesting for the lives of black Americans as far away as New Zealand  because America’s  blatant civil rights atrocities have finally reached a fever pitch and the pot has boiled over.  The world is shocked and our veil lifted.  

This is America 2.0.  She is not great and far from “great again.” From the COVID19 pandemic to the riots of 2020 - so many in our country are struggling while we bail out billion dollar corporations.  We have widened the wealth, health and death gaps yet America wears designer clothes while being morally bankrupt.  In the words of my quick witted internet friends - America has become a “3rd world country wearing a Gucci belt.”   


What I Know

That while I personally ONLY believe in civil protest I know the ugly history of America from brutally stealing this land from Native American Indians to the savagery of slavery on to the horrors of Jim Crow and finally the paradox of a “post racial”  society  - America has been anything BUT civil.  America was built on a foundation of violence.  We have waged, conspired and puppeteered wars in far away lands to insure our global dominance at the price of countless foreign lives lost while we enjoyed the fruits of another land’s natural resources, wealth and riches while living unscathed and at peace on American soil - until now.  


What I Know

While I do NOT agree with the ugly and counterproductive rioting and looting, much of it from opportunists and looters high jacking this movement  -   I also know that today’s violence is sadly a reflection of our violent American history.  It’s how this nation was built. We are witnessing learned behavior now in the hands of the oppressed.  From the founding fathers to our violent slave masters, violence has been an abhorrent American tradition.  It is unfair to excuse the vicious, dishonorable behavior of those charged to serve and protect while expecting blind and passive compliance from everyone else.  This vile, irrational and racist perspective, however, is steeped in American tradition.  


What I Know

Many Americans are NOT a fan of civil protest either.  In fact, they would prefer a knee to the neck of a black man than a knee of a black man kneeled down in respectful, PEACEFUL  protest to bring attention to the countless number of unarmed black men murdered at the hands of police. In fact - the last time someone took a knee in peaceful protest, they were called “sons of bitches” by our commander and chief. They were told to “shut up and play ball”.  They were told to “go back to Africa” which incidentally most black Americans have no attachment to because of the violent and cruel  separation of us from our country, language, culture, names and ancestors 400+ years ago. No thanks.  We will decline the invitation to leave the country our ancestors built before many of your ancestors thought to arrive.   No.  America does NOT  want peaceful protest.  America wants submission; compliance - surrender.  But the groundswell from below say “no more.” America as a country  is so deeply entrenched and embroiled  in hatred for black Americans that they are not even aware of who they really are. They have created an alternative narrative to make palatable what’s grossly and undeniably unacceptable.  


How You Can Help

For those that want to help and consider yourself a friend or ally to a black friend that you know or love - I appeal to you to constructively use your privilege.  This is actually not a time to turn a blind eye.  In the words of MLK “in the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”  


How You Can Help

Speak for us when our mouths are muzzled and voices muted.  It’s not enough to say “oh that’s a shame...” then back to your regularly scheduled programming.  Please lend your voice.  

Correct and challenge racist family members and friends even when it’s uncomfortable; when it’s really hard.  You are the ONLY voice that matters.  They won’t listen to me.

Stand besides us in solidarity.  Sadly your presence is about the only thing that gives validity to our cause.  We can do it but not by ourselves.  The image of a line of fearless white women in the red state of Kentucky standing in solidarity as a human shield to a row of black protestors is really all you need to know about the state of race in America.  The image reflects both the problem and the solution all in one extraordinarily sad yet empowering moment.


How You Can Help

Openly acknowledge our pain and not just our responses to it.  Insist on political accountability. Call your black friend and ask them how you can help.  


How You Can Help

Protect our sons when you see them pulled over by police. At least stay with them and question police.  You can do that without personal retaliation. At least stay on the scene with my sons.  Record the encounter.  My sons are wonderful young  men.  One is a quiet and gentle muscular guy who happens to be a physics wiz.  My baby son is multilingual and will be a future doctor like his mommy.  He is also the family’s comic relief - a baby Chris Tucker and our right hand as well as a young civic leader. Whatever we ask It’s done - no questions asked. But sadly my sons look like every other black man.  They are muscular, strong, tall and dark and apparently by virtue of their mere existence - an eminent threat.  But make no mistake  they will do great things in this world.  Can you help them live long enough to get that chance?   At least not have a premature death?  As a black mother of black sons - I beg you to help me.  Yes for them I will actually beg. You will NEVER hear me beg for any other reason than my children - EVER.  


And look out for our daughters too.  Mine is a brilliant lawyer and she won’t take being treated like a second class citizen. She’s respectful but God made her feisty.  But that could cost her her life.  Racist cops don’t like blacks that don’t know their place (Sandra Bland). Her skin is not light enough for a defensive posture.   And I’m sorry. She just won’t shut up.  She’s a brilliant prosecutor with the audacity to believe she has the right to defend herself though the reality is something different. One thing I know is that she will stand up for you because she will stand up for what’s right.  I know this because I raised her.

I suspect by now you’re tired of hearing about racism.  I get it but imagine living it all the time. When you have “Racism Fatigue” you may say ... ✅I don’t see color ✅Stop pulling the race card ✅I have black friends ✅I’m not a racist   ✅we had a black president ✅slavery is over


What You Should Know

WE ARE NOT OK and haven’t been ok for as long as I can remember.  How could we be? No matter how smart or accomplished we are we rarely feel welcomed or believe that we belong in this country, on our jobs, in our communities, etc..... #ImpostersSyndrome.  PLEASE don’t get it twisted.  In the words of the post Paul Laurence Dunbar ..

We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, We wear the mask....

Our daily internal struggle is to convince ourselves that we actually deserve to be here.  The next job is to convince everyone else.  


What You Should Know

We live in a constant state of fear.   I taught my little boys to NEVER walk into a store with their hands in their pockets or they will assume that you’re stealing.  No other race would hold this as even a passing thought.  In fact - the list of “things you can’t do while black” without risking your life is long and exhausting and include such basic activities as taking a jog to bird watching.

My heart rate goes to 160 EVERY TIME I see blue sirens behind me.  Like I’m terrified.  I keep my hospital ID on the dash showing I’m a doctor hoping that might give me favor if stopped.  But I also fear that if I misspeak I may be labeled as an “uppity n**a.”  Not my words. Their thoughts.   I always speak super respectfully because I don’t want to say the wrong thing.  Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t say the right words.  

I love my friends no matter their color and I vow to show you rather than just tell you because action speaks louder than words.  


What You Should Know  

Never again will I move into a neighborhood where my sons can’t visit me without being profiled or can’t go for a jog without getting a side eye or becoming the victim  of a 911 call to police for “looking suspicious.”  YES.  MY SONS HAVE BEEN HANDCUFFED AND  DETAINED for questioning because they fit the description.  Black.  Male.   YES.  I  too have been stopped  and asked where I was going when heading home from the hospital after working a 16hr shift delivering smiles, hugs and saving lives. Though a physician and community leader - my entire resume has been reduced into one frightening police encounter where the initial presumption was that I somehow wandered into the “wrong neighborhood.”  This happened more than once. It also happened to my mother.  She was in her mid 80s at the time.  


What You Should Know

In spite of how you treat me -  I love you.  Yes America. I love you still.  Like a battered wife I keep believing you will change.  I’ve invested too much.  Can’t walk away now. You’re all I know.  So I’ll pray for the best and embrace for the worst.  

Let me tell you what I know.  It took an unseen enemy - a viral pandemic to bring America to its knees.  While on our knees we didn’t repent, we didn’t pray and we definitely didn’t change.  We have continued in our nation’s tradition of racial and socioeconomic marginalization of those who are most vulnerable in favor of capitalistic greed and self promotion.  

Like George Floyd’s final words, Americans have ignored the deafening cries of our neighbors saying “I can’t breathe.” The peaceful protests were both severely criticized and ignored now the squeaky wheel has captured all of our attention.  Good or bad - “riots are the language of the unheard.” MLK America stands at the crossroad of Justice and Implosion. There are no back roads to choose.  May we choose wisely for we are no longer on our knees but we are on our face.

  This I know

Sweetie Conway, MD, MPH

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