We are our brothers and sisters’ keeper…let’s act like it!
What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday our concern was COVID-19 and a return to “normalcy.” This week I watched the Coopers—Amy calling 911 when Christian—no relation—asked her to leash her dog. When he refused to stop recording their conversation, she threatened to falsely tell police she was being accosted by an African American man. She began acting hysterically and made the call.
Miraculously the fate that befell George Floyd didn’t happen to Christian Cooper. Floyd, whose death sparked national rioting, protests, looting, and destruction over the past five days, died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. I watched in horror as crowds looted and burned businesses and taunted police across the country. The orderly protests that were expected seemingly ended when the sun went down, and chaos spread like spilled coffee near a laptop.
I thought about all the brave and honorable people in blue whom I love and admire. They work hard every day, they protect and serve, and they risk their lives. When tragedies like the death of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, and Sandra Bland occur, it’s easy to forget the positive and allow goodwill to evaporate like the morning dew. The officers who hold each other accountable and treat citizens with respect, all get painted with the ugly stroke of the “police brutality” brush.
Every time an unarmed African American dies at the hand of the police, there is outrage, protests, and calls for change, but the incidents keep happening. Perhaps incident is too weak a word. Like school shootings before COVID-19, these deaths are too commonplace. That split second when an officer feels threatened and opts to use deadly force seems to have lessened and results are dangerous, devastating, and irreversible.
As the mother of a son and GG to a grandson, an aunt, sister of four brothers, and wife of an African American man, my heart is heavy. I need them to be safe as they move about their lives and tend to their business. I want them to have the benefit of the doubt every time they look like somebody who robbed a bank, or if they’re running to be healthy.
I want the language and tone that gets used with them to be civil and non-threatening. I want Officer Friendly from the second-grade reader to do the policing not someone who stands by and watches inhumane treatment of a “suspect.”
My friends, we can do better, and we must. We must commit ourselves to building relationships and bridges if we intend to live together harmoniously. We must take time to build relationships, trust, and authenticity across/between/through lines—racial, cultural, sexual, age, geographical, … —every day.
Second, we must know what to do with our anger and frustration. Looting and burning may be signs of pent-up aggression but it kills communities and dreams. One of the saddest stories I saw was of a man whose life savings had been invested in his business only to have it destroyed by looters. We have to stay focused on what the protest is about and stop making excuses for what is called stealing and vandalism on a given day. We must say it’s not ok.
We must get rid of the “us” and “them” mentality for those who are sworn to protect us. Community conversations around sensitivity and bias must begin yesterday. We must say ENOUGH ALREADY! Let’s work together with our chiefs, deputies, patrol officers, and citizens so George Floyd’s death will not be in vain.
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