The colorful photo is of the road in front of my house and peonies from a start from my grandmother. But I don’t intend to talk about pretty flowers today. The photo is merely here to get your attention.
It’s rare that I have thoughts that I don’t know how to express. This space is nearly always reserved for positive ideas and happy pictures. After all, there are many people in the world spreading negativity without my contributing more.
But something happened this week that I need to talk about and I don’t know how. A man died in the street, begging for air while police officers held him down in the name of law and order.
I didn’t watch the video at first. I knew how it would end and I didn’t want to see it.
Like many, I looked the other way.
But it occurred to me that social injustices are allowed to continue because otherwise good people look the other way.
So I watched the video and it was horrifying. His name was George Floyd and three police officers pinned him to the ground while one of those officers pressed his knee into the man’s neck.
He didn’t appear to be resisting. Instead, he sounded almost polite in the way he said “sir, I can’t breathe.”
He begged for air. He called out for his mother.
He was murdered in the street by the very people we rely on to protect us. Cameras rolled while it happened.
There are good cops in this world just as there are bad ones. I know many good cops who are appalled at what they saw.
Was George Floyd breaking the law? Maybe, but no human being deserves to die in the street, calling for his mother while another person squeezes the last breath out of his body.
This has to end.
I have friends who are black and I worry for them. I worry for their physical well being and for the mental strain of living in a country that turns a blind eye to the systematic racism and brutality directed squarely at them.
One of my friends travels for a living. He has a good job, mentors others, helps anyone that he can and is a good person. He stays in nice hotels when he travels but I worry about what will happen to him out walking the block or two from the Hilton to the good vegan restaurant down the street in a strange city.
I cannot imagine living in a world where jogging in my own neighborhood could get me shot. I cannot imagine being followed through the park by some obnoxious person because they think I don’t belong there. I cannot imagine being afraid of the cops, terrified of getting pulled over for something so simple as speeding because I very well could end up dead.
Sadly, racism probably isn’t any worse today than it was ten years ago. The masses just know more about it. There are more people with more cameras at the ready, more avenues for distributing the horrifying images of ignorance and hate.
Underneath our skin, we are all made of the same organs and bones. Cut us and we bleed. Hurt us and we cry.
Remember that the next time you want to judge someone for their skin color. Remember that the next time you see someone being abused because of their skin color. We are all the same inside. We all deserve better.
And yet, we all have such different experiences in this world. My experience as a white female in Appalachian Ohio is much different than what a black male would have in the same place or in an inner city.
Friends, I’m tired.
I’m tired of hearing people blame victims who inherited decades old systematic problems and circumstances that most white people can’t begin to comprehend. I’m tired of seeing headlines about people committing evil toward each other. I’m tired of protesters not being heard and of all the excuses for cruelty and ignorance.
I’m tired of a discourse that makes it sound as though these crimes of racism in our country are perfectly normal.
There’s nothing normal about this level of hate.
George Floyd was 46 years old. He had moved to Minneapolis in search of a better life. Isn’t that what we all want?
What’s truly frustrating is that I don’t know what to do about it. These wounds and divides will not be easily fixed. I will say though, that it’s easier to hate people you don’t know.
We all would be well served to seek out people who are different than us. Get to know them. Invite them into your world so they can get to know you too. Speak up when you see injustice and if you can’t do something to make someone’s day better, don’t go making it worse.
Stop looking the other way.