Patrick Bernadeau: It’s time to stop being numb to injustice

Read how George Floyd’s death is a call to speak up

People stand near the Minneapolis police department 3rd precinct and throw their hands in the air as they chant for George Floyd on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. A video taken by a bystander shows a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on Floyd's. The four officers involved have been fired. Evan Frost / MPR News

MINNEAPOLIS — At 10:42 p.m. Tuesday night, my cell phone rang and on the other end was my ex-girlfriend.
Before she could mutter a sentence, my ex, who is white, broke down crying.
She was just moments removed from watching George Floyd, a 46-year-old black resident of St. Louis Park, lose his life to the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, or more accurately put, the left knee of one police officer.

George Floyd. Courtesy photo

Through most of our 87-minute conversation, she was a blubbering mixture of hysterical, fed up and empathetic. She couldn’t grasp how a police officer didn’t value a man’s existence enough to listen to his last gasps and allow him to breathe. She was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Lastly, she felt helpless, speaking to how she lived with white privilege and feared what life was like in my shoes.

I told her how much I appreciated her compassion and gave my thoughts on how she could channel her energy. Additionally, I explained that despite 99.9 percent of my interactions with the police having gone well, I still can’t escape the 0.1 percent whenever an officer approaches my vehicle. I know that an overwhelming number of people with a badge are brave and deserve to wear it with pride and honor, but the bad apples muddy the landscape.


Her tears continued, largely because of how my calmness during this kind of discussion seemingly exhibited a numbness or normalcy in the midst of a tragedy.

That’s because in large part, I am numb to this. Global pandemic withstanding, this just feels like another day in this country.

Patrick Bernadeau mug.jpg
Patrick Bernadeau photo Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

From the countless people before Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Laquan McDonald, Philando Castile to Floyd (and the many more that will probably follow), these things no longer shock me anymore. I used to be the person who would hop on social media and express a reaction bordering on group think.

As of late, that was not the case. That’s not to discredit the power social media has played in seeking justice; the videos posted online represent transparency while the raw emotion from said reactions has spearheaded the movement. But I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, it just felt like talk.

My plan of action was based on how I carried myself.

After years of living my life in fairly diverse settings on the East Coast, I moved to the Midwest nearly three years ago. For two years, I resided in the whitest state in our nation: North Dakota. Later, I moved to west central Minnesota, a place with a bit more diversity, but still, extraordinarily white. With that said, I put added pressure on how I came across.


While never relinquishing my culture and who I am at my core, I aimed to be a representative of a community to people who likely don’t have many interactions with others who look like me.

I never looked to be “one of the good ones,” though. I just wanted to set an example that despite how different I was from the rest, we’re all humans at the end of the day.

However, in light of Floyd’s murder, how can I think that sentiment matters?

Truthfully, I don’t care if he was suspected of a crime. I don’t care if he had a troubled past. I don’t care if he supposedly resisted police orders. The four officers had him restrained, but the police, or in this case, the jury, judge and executioner, decided in mere minutes that the penalty for his actions should be death.

In that same vein, it doesn’t matter if I have a college degree, a career and never have been arrested, that still could be me.

How more sickeningly apparent that a certain life is worth so little.

But even worse, are the people who gear their thoughts toward defending and/or excusing the murder. What happened before the now-infamous recording started? Why should I worry about someone who might be a criminal? Why was Floyd resisting?

Frankly, who cares?


I can’t imagine seeing something so overtly wrong and then desperately trying to figure out what’s right.

Truth is those folks don’t really care, and the things that will alarm them and elicit the most fervor aren’t the reasons why some decided to protest areas of Minneapolis since Tuesday night. It will likely be fixated on the massive damage caused by the protests and possibly the absence of social distancing at them.

May 26 Mpls. protesters.jpg
A crowd of protesters gather Tuesday, May 26, 2020, near the site where George Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. A video taken by a bystander Monday night shows a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on the neck of a man in custody who later died. The four officers involved have been fired. Evan Frost / MPR News

There’s no strong excuse for the pockets of rioting. It doesn’t matter if it happens at a multi-billion dollar company like Target or some of the small businesses owned by people in the community, innocent lives and workers are affected.

Here’s the reason why it’s imperative to be on the right side of this example of police brutality. It is simple: Victimization and persecution complexes are rampant in a time of cable news and slanted media outlets. Still, people have a voice to defend their rights. In the most dehumanizing way possible, George Floyd lost his voice.

With this outlet, I’ll do a better job of using my voice. It’s time to stop being numb to this.


People hold signs and listen to speakers on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in front of Cup Foods, where George Floyd was restrained by Minneapolis police officers the night before. Floyd later died. Evan Frost / MPR News

Opinion by Patrick Bernadeau
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