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A Viral Valentine

It is a very short walk from my house to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Harbor Division. I see the officers who work there almost every day. My conversations with these officers are friendly. This is why my heart is shattered, and I am deeply disillusioned, by a recent incident.

I have been excavating and exposing the Wounds of American slavery for more than two decades. My own compulsory journey has trained me to identify these wounds on sight. I know what I am looking at. I know the pain they cause.

On February 15th I click on to, and there it is—a picture of George Floyd. The picture is flanked by a red BREAKING NEWS banner on the left, and a blue badge on the right which reads: Los Angeles Police Department, To Protect and Serve. The article itself is titled: “LAPD Cops Share George Floyd Post ...CAPTION: 'YOU TAKE MY BREATH AWAY'”.

What is this supposed to be? A valentine???

I read more, because where there’s smoke there’s fire. But, because it’s TMZ, my first instinct is to do some serious fact-checking. I follow the smoke to CNN and LA Times, and where I discover more information. Names. Details. Facts. Flames. The “valentine” was “allegedly” posted by one of the officers, right down the street from where I live!

For me, this is no different than finding a noose, or swastika, on public display. The wounds inflicted and recycled are the same—fear, rage, distrust, vulnerability and lack of protection by those hired to serve me. These acts are never random. They are specific, and divisive.

District Attorney Gascón stated, "Celebrating the murder of a Black man at the hands of police demonstrates a profound absence of humanity.” Attorney Ben Crump assents, “The type of callousness and cruelty within a person's soul needed to do something like this evades comprehension…” (CNN, February 15, 2021). Well, it does not evade my comprehension. I do not need to depend on surface activities like press conferences, rallies, or investigations—I laser straight into the heart of the matter.

Attorney Crump relayed the Floyd family is outraged and furious which indicate extreme anger. Their responses are understandable. But I know there is so much more. My research, and experience as a Black woman living in America, tell me they are in a world of hurt—still reeling, grappling, and processing the wounds left by the fatal theft of their loved one. This incident has left them re-wounded. They are not alone. I, for one, am re-wounded with them. But, as wounded as I feel, what gives me hope is my 20-year journey, healing my own wounds of American slavery. I know we can shift this paradigm and demolish the toxicity. It all begins with a committed conversation—real talk.

So, I’ll go around the corner, grab a cup of joe from Sacred Grounds Cafe, take a stroll down my street, and let it begin with me.

Payge Means Hopper is the author of the book Healing the Wounds of American Slavery.


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