As a young journalist, I know covering trauma is part of the job, but I’m dreading the trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
In the Twin Cities, Black residents like me are hesitant but ready to see how it will play out in the coming weeks.
This has left me questioning if I still want a career in journalism.
Last June, I first started covering police brutality. In an opinion piece for YR Media, “A Minnesota Weighs In: Is There Hope After Hashtags?,” I described my initial reaction to the video footage of Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck. I called it sickening and shameful. I also reflected on the Minnesota I thought I knew; and for the first time, I saw America in a different light.
After the piece was published, I got more than 200 shares and received thoughtful feedback and support from my community. As a young Black journalist, this was liberating for me. It felt empowering to do this work and hear people agree with my opinion. I was now a part of the conversation. I remember feeling revved up after all the responses and I put my activism face on.
Up until this point, I had only considered myself a writer and college student. Now, I was a political columnist. Between work and school, I consumed myself with the news and commentary on CNN. I followed threads and other journalists who were trying to make sense of it all. Sharing my opinion was my new outlet for stress. It relieved me as I explored my inner dialogue on what race, racism and reform meant to me.
But after a few months, it seemed like the coverage and commentary about Floyd drastically slowed down and stopped trending. The news was now back to talking about COVID-19 and the increasing number of new cases. My attention span became short.
I felt frustrated, torn and obligated to keep the conversations around racial reckoning going. Of course, I was deeply concerned with our country’s state of health, too. I didn’t want any of my loved ones or myself to get COVID, but injustice weighed heavier in my heart. I felt like everyone just gave up. Even George Floyd Square was a ghost town.
Where was everyone? All the people who protested and had so much to say — now where were they? Where were the endless Black Lives Matter posts now?
I resented the news. I felt like this is what people meant when they say that mainstream media has an “agenda.” In my mind, I expected a revolution and a movement to come out of all of this. For once, I thought America was going to change for good. But that wish was only a dream.
And just like the saying goes, we took three steps forward and five back. And, the Capitol was attacked. I, too, couldn’t believe this. I remember laughing hysterically as I watched confederate flags and bugged out bodies storm into the building.
At that point, I did not want to be a journalist anymore. None of it felt worth it. It was a slap to the face. It was like all the conversations I had and articles I wrote up to this point about a “new America” meant nothing.
Before, when I would feel frustrated or angry I would just write another article to recharge, and I could always bounce back. But now, none of this is working. I want to opt-out of all things Black-harm related.
The trial will force us to relive Floyd’s murder. What I will experience in those moments worry me the most.
I imagine I will feel a version of what I did when it happened: sick to my stomach and afraid. However, it’s emotionally taxing work that must be done.