What we Americans and the world have witnessed in our country over the past few weeks is totally appalling, heart-wrenching, and unbelievably wrong. We have seen, in over a dozen US cities, private property being destroyed, people being hurt and even killed, and lootings of things that belong to others. Police departments have been burned and so have apartment buildings occupied by who knows who and of who knows what race. Truthfully, I think all this violence is terrible.
But… wait a minute. What I wrote above is not the wrong I’m referring to, at least not yet. From what perspective am I, as an old white American guy, viewing all of this? From what perspective are you? Am I seeing it through the eyes of a race that has been put down in our country for at least the past two centuries? Am I walking in the shoes of people who are at least as smart as I am, but find it difficult to find work and equality in the country that I have always proclaimed as the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Mr. George Floyd died a few weeks ago. He died an untimely, terrible death because he was, simply, brutally, torturously murdered by a white police officer, while three other officers looked on and did nothing! Others were in the background telling this ‘officer’ to stop. Someone, somehow, was taking a ten-minute video of it all on their phone! How supremely disgusting! How appalling!
I know little of Mr. Floyd, other than that his skin color was dark, and that he worked at the same nightclub as did his murderer. Why Mr. Floyd was killed might have been because of his color, or because of money, or some hidden crime, or a woman the men were fighting over, or because of something else. This murderer’s accusers assume it was because of Mr. Floyd’s race, but I have no idea if that is true.
Of the three other officers who stood by and watched a man on the ground, with another man’s knee on his neck while he begged for breath, for ten minutes, two of the names seemed to be of Asian and Hispanic heritage, at least to me.
Here’s the rub, to my mind, because of my personal family situation. I am the very proud, white father of two fantastic African American children. I’m also the father-in-law of a wonderful law-abiding and law-enforcing African American man. I’m the grandfather of six mixed-race children, the great-grandfather of two beautiful mixed-race toddler girls, and the proud grandfather of two gorgeous granddaughters of Chinese descent. I have also had two nieces and two nephews of Asian heritage.
I’ve heard all about the terrible uprising in our land because of Mr. Floyd’s murder. Some people say, yes, it’s bad, but it’s just one man. Others tout the idea that we need to stop senseless burnings of private property and stop the violence. In some ways I agree with that last statement, but not because I’m an old white guy.
George Floyd’s brother said recently that it is time for the violence to stop, that his brother would have agreed with peaceful protest, but not with the destruction of private property. To me, that is a noble statement above and beyond the call of duty from this man’s brother. I DO understand why people of Mr. Floyd’s race are doing what they are doing right now. I wonder how I would feel and what I would do if George had been my bother. With my racially varied family, he could easily have been my son. My son can NEVER die because of the color of his skin. How disgusting a thought! If he did, it could be me who would begin burning cities. Still, somehow, for the sake of the future, for the sake of all our kids and grandkids, the violence must stop.
I want to end this column with just one quote of many available on this subject from one of my true heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.” (1956)
I have no control over my own age or race. I’m not in charge of either one. I am an old white guy. That’s all there is to it. But as such, I still have no reason to follow the actions of many old white guys of the past, and I choose not to. I have an obligation to my children and our family’s future generations to be better than that. For the sake of all our children, grandchildren, and our country itself, for Pete’s sake, America, WAKE UP!