An Open Letter About the Death of George Floyd

To the Villanova community and any other readers of The Villanovan,

I’m not coming to you today as Tyler Kemp the Co-Editor-In-Chief of The Villanovan. I’m coming to you today as a frustrated young Black man that is trying to navigate how to survive on a day-to-day in America.

A friend of mine reached out to me today asking if The Villanovan is going to cover anything having to do with the wrongful murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. To be completely honest, that was one of first times that I did not have an answer about something having to do with the paper for the simple fact in that I had no clue what to say.

Then, the email was sent.

Receiving a message at 2:32 p.m. on Friday afternoon from the Office of the President gave me all of the fuel that I needed. I was struggling with expressing my own emotions throughout this week after watching the video of Floyd’s death. Once I got an email saying, “Dear Members of the Villanova Community, Just Breathe,” that told me everything I needed to know.

Given the situation at hand and speaking directly with fellow students of color at the University, I am disappointed. I am disappointed in the fact that another Black person was killed because of pure hatred and racism. I am even more disappointed in the fact that I received an email with the first line saying, “Just breathe,” when yet another Black person was pleading for his life by saying “I can’t breathe.” Was there not any other way to start that email?

But this is not a hit piece against the administration. This is bigger than that. This is about the fact that I along with every other Black person within the Villanova community have to live life in fear. The fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time could lead to being the next Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor or George Floyd. While I cannot speak for everyone, I know many Black people not only within the Villanova community but in America share this commonality: we are tired.

We are tired of seeing our Black fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters lose their life because of their skin color. We are tired of having to post headshots on social media of those that we have lost. We are tired of having to constantly remind everyone for the better part of the last decade that Black lives matter. We are tired of bending over backwards so that the criminal justice system gives us a fair shake when one of ours is wrongfully murdered.

For the last eight years of my life, I have come to learn that America does not care for Black people. There are certain things that White people are allowed to do on a daily basis that Black people are simply not afforded the luxury of doing. The most basic luxury that Black people are not afforded is being allowed to live without the off chance that our life is taken away from us by way of the most lethal disease in Black America: racism.

For hundreds of years, our culture has been stripped and appropriated, our skin tone has been weaponized and our bodies have both figuratively and literally battered and bruised. As a result of these actions, we as a people suffer from the effects of institutionalized racism that were put in place well before any of us reading this were born.

Don’t tell us to “just breathe” when we have been physically, emotionally and psychologically smothered for years. Don’t tell us to “just breathe” when George Floyd was just killed and his last few words were “I can’t breathe.” That is not going to cut it anymore.

For anyone who is reading this that is White, let this be a lesson that we are astronomically far from living in a postracial society. It is not only Black people in America, but all people of color are grieving right now. There was a chord struck once news started circulating that Floyd was killed, and many people are still trying to figure out how to process what just happened. Check in with them.

For the Black people reading this, be angry. Do not bottle up your emotions on this issue. When the time is right, convert that negative energy into something that can be used in a positive light. Engage in dialogue and larger conversations about racism in America. Call out something wrong when you see it either in person or on social media. Keep rising up against hate, microagressions and both covert and over racism in order to continue being the Queens and Kings that you are. This fight against racism is a long way from over, but we are going to win.

If anyone needs someone to talk to, reach out to me directly via any outlet that you may have my contact information on. For those who do not have a way to reach me but want to engage in a further conversation, my email is tkemp1@villanova.edu.

Thank you,

Tyler Kemp