Let’s Stand Together

I am not normally one to post on politics. I don’t post it because I feel like it only adds to the division, distrust, and conflict in our society. However, I feel compelled to speak out given what has been happening in this country. It has become obvious to me that NOT sharing my sadness, anger, frustration and confusion is no longer an option. MLK said, “there comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.”
 
I think of myself as a very inclusive person. My whole life, I have had friends of varying ages, color, religion and ethnicity from all over the world. I am very much against racism and hate of any kind. I always try to look at people and treat them exactly the same as I would treat anyone else; no matter what they look like or what language they speak. I always look for the things that we have in common. Before this week, I might have described my attitude towards race as “not seeing color.” And I thought that was a good attitude to have.
 
Not after this week.
 
I am a white man who was born into a middle class family on Long Island, NY. I am aware that there are privileges I have been afforded because of the color of my skin that were not afforded to George Floyd. It isn’t a comfortable thing to think about, but I knew that before this week. This week I was listening to countless black parents talk about how they have to engage with their kids about how to behave themselves in public and around the police. It’s bad enough to be held to a different standard. It’s even worse when you can do all the right things and still lose your life.
 
My parents never had that chat with me. They worried about me not doing drugs and getting into college, not whether or not I would come home alive because of the color of my skin.
 
This week has made me face the fact that my life experience is completely different than any of my black friends growing up and in adulthood. It isn’t comfortable. It really shouldn’t be.
 
I don’t think anyone can possibly watch the video of the murder of George Floyd and not be disgusted, sad and downright pissed off.
 
I have been lucky enough to get to know a lot of good people in law enforcement in my life. When I was a manager at the Old Ebbitt we had police in all the time and they were some of the nicest men and women. The commander of our local precinct gave me his personal number incase I ever had any issues late night.
 
This man, and the one’s who stood by and watched, who knealt on a handcuffed man’s neck while he begged for help until his life was gone do not represent those good cops I knew.
 
However, saying this is one bad apple is not an acceptable response. As a matter of fact, the phrase keeps being used incorrectly. “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” That doesn’t mean those few bad apples just hang out in the bunch without impacting the other apples. This is a systemic problem. George Floyd’s death does not occur in a vacuum. How many black men must die at the hands of the police for something to change?
 
What scares me more is thinking about how many of these abuses and killings happen that go unrecorded. George Floyd’s murderer walked around a free man for days until outrage boiled over. Would we know Ahmaud Arbery’s name if that misplaced accomplice didn’t think sharing the video of a murder would clear his friends’ name?
 
Even if there are fewer than I imagine, the slow reaction to bring to justice those responsible for the death of innocent black men and women doesn’t make you trust the system much.
 
I am glad to hear police officers condemning this horrific murder. But words alone are not enough. Action, sustained action is needed to gain back some of the trust that quite frankly, they don’t deserve right now.
 
We are not just making up for a few decades of police brutality and injustice. The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964. My dad was 10. Slavery was abolished 150 years ago. That is a handful of generations.
 
I don’t know what change looks like exactly. And it is not solved alone with fixing the police. The need for change is evident in the legal system. It is evident in the medical system. It is evident in income distribution. It is evident in our communities right now.
 
I would never advocate for violence, but what else should people do when they feel their backs are up against the wall? When they feel like their ability to live freely and safely is under threat by those sworn to protect it?
 
Colin Kaepernick was driven from football because he took a knee during the national anthem to bring attention to the injustice that killed George Floyd and countless others.
 
If you can’t take a knee or take to the streets, what can you do to bring attention to these important issues?
 
Protests aren’t supposed to be welcomed by everyone. Kaepernick was protesting the status quo. The same goes for Martin Luther King Jr.. We remember him as a great unifier, but people hated him enough to assassinate him because he was taking a stand against the current power structure.
 
There are reports that a lot of this damage is being done by organized small groups trying to diminish the message of the protestors. There are reports that some are organized by foreign actors or organized criminals.
 
Within the protestors themselves, I’m sure there are some bad actors.
 
But, even if there are bad actors, that cannot take away from the importance of the message.
 
Black people are being oppressed.
 
Black people are being killed.
 
If you are more upset by protests in the streets than you are about a race being systematically oppressed and killed, I really don’t know what else to say.
 
Things need to change.
 
Leadership starts at the top. Right now we have a President who has encouraged the police to be rough with suspects. He has shown open disdain for minorities and immigrants. He shows no sympathy. He has politicized support for the police. He encourages white protestors fighting stay at home orders meant to keep them safe and threatens protestors fighting for their right to live. I don’t care who you vote for or if you think Coronavirus is a hoax or not. This is not right.
 
Since when can we not walk and chew gum at the same time? Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean they matter at the expense of other lives.
 
George Floyd’s life mattered to me.
 
Black lives matter to me.
 
If you read this far (and even if you didn’t), your life matters to me.
 
The Talmud says, “if not me, who? If not now, when?”
 
When we revolted from the tyranny of Great Britain, the Declaration of Independence starts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
 
These “truths” don’t seem self evident right now.
 
Let’s all try to be better.
 
Let’s be part of the change.
 
Let’s stand together.

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