From Kian delos Santos to George Floyd
It’s not surprising that George Floyd reminds many Filipinos of Kian delos Santos.
It’s not surprising that the gruesome death of the 46-year-old African American in Minneapolis reminds us of the brutal killing of the Filipino teenager shot and killed by police in Manila three years ago.
The two police killings turned the spotlight of law enforcers abusing their power, disregarding the rights of the people they were supposed to protect, becoming, in the eyes of the communities they swore to serve, the enemy.
The killings, one under Duterte, the president who inspired mass murder in the Philippines, the other under his ally, Donald Trump, who once praised white supremacists as “very fine people,” also highlight what happens when countries are run by leaders with zero empathy tolerate, endorse, even glorify violence.
The video of Floyd’s death was tough to watch.
The white policeman, Derek Chauvin, kneels on the neck of an African American man. Floyd pleads with the cop to let him stand, to stop the pain. He can’t breathe. He’s in pain. Bystanders also plead with the cop to let him go, to show mercy. The pleas eventually turn into alarmed protests. “Bro, he’s not fucking moving, bro.”
Then Floyd is silent. Another dead black man in a long history of black men who were shot, beaten, choked.
Floyd was abused in broad daylight, in a public place, with people watching, recording, witnessing the torture that led to his death.
Kian delos Santos was killed in a dark alley where he begged for his life, “Tama na po. May test pa po ako bukas.” (“Please stop. I still have a test tomorrow.”)
He was a young man who wanted to do well in school, who was concerned about his studies. The police tried to portray him as a violent criminal as part of the bloody campaign Duterte inspired, the mass killings incited by the president who has publicly told them that it’s okay to kill and even to rape.
But CCTV footage and witnesses eventually showed the cops were lying. There were protests following Kian’s death. His killers were subsequently found guilty of murder.
The policeman who knelt on Floyd’s neck has been arrested and charged. Three other cops have been fired.
The protests are still raging in the US and other countries. So many images of anger, even violence, images that make us feel angry, puzzled, hopeless. We are getting bombarded by so many images and words, conflicting, troubling, popping up on our newsfeeds or being sent directly to our email inboxes or our mobile phones, that it can be overwhelming.
You have to make choices on what to focus on .
I choose to focus on those providing us context for what’s happening. Like my boyhood hero, basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who wrote: “What you should see when you see black protesters in the age of Trump and coronavirus is people pushed to the edge, not because they want bars and nail salons open, but because they want to live. To breathe.”
I choose to focus on the images of hope like the video of policeinPortland taking a knee to show solidarity with the protesters.
Or that of the young woman protester who scolded troublemakers who appeared to be more interested in senseless violence and of the Michigan
sheriff who joined the marchers saying, “The only reason we’re here is to make sure you have a voice, that’s it.”
I choose to focus on these words and images while remembering George Floyd and Kian delos Santos and many others who died in America, the Philippines and other places led by rulers who abuse their power, from thuggish presidents to abusive cops.
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