On 9-11 I saw a clip of people holding hands and jumping from the windows of the burning Twin Towers. I felt horrified, and couldn’t bear to watch it again.
I felt the same way last summer about the video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. I didn’t need to see it. I could just imagine what it was like. I was trying to protect myself, I now realize, in a way that black people can’t. It was a black teenager who took out her cellphone and pressed play on the video to record a cop murdering a black man in the street. She said on the stand, “It could have been my father, my brother.” But back in June of last year, I was thinking differently. I was trying to avoid the video. Then one night I stayed up late and switched on PBS’s Amanpour and Company, and that’s where I inadvertently saw it. The cop kneeling on Floyd’s neck looked straight at the camera with the same nonchalance I’d seen on the white faces in Beyond Sanctuary, the book of lynching photographs my mother owned.