I would be lying if I said I understood how people of color in this country feel every day about being black or brown in America.
So while, like most white Americans, I personally don’t care what color the people were who died recently at the hands (and knees) of law enforcement officers were black, brown, green or any color, religion or orientation, I completely understand the outrage being felt again by so many of us who witnessed what amounted to the recent public executions of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks.
As everyone surely knows by now, Floyd — who was killed about four weeks ago by former Minneapolis Police Office Derek Chauvin as three other now-former officers watched — was being arrested (but not resisting arrest) for passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a store.
Three weeks later, Brooks was shot dead by now-former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe after trying to run away from being arrested at a Wendy’s. Although Brooks certainly did resist arrest and tried to run away from the scene, the fact he stole the Taser from one of the officers and fired it at them from a distance makes his situation different from Floyd’s, but still begs the same nagging question:
If either of these men were white, would they still be alive today?
Yes, I believe all four cops (the others let him be killed) shown in a video thankfully released the day after Floyd was killed should go to jail for murder. And no, I don’t understand why Floyd was targeted by these cops to receive this particular abuse of their power, especially in light of something that happened to Jannah and me only a year ago.
When we got married in March of 2019, some of our attendees gave us gifts of cash, including a few people who each gave us a $100 bill as a gift.
However, when we tried to pay a tab at a local bar with one of those $100 bills, we were informed that the bill was counterfeit. But, rather than have us arrested — at least in part because the bar owner knew us from previous visits and said it was obvious we didn’t know the bill was no good — all he did was ask us to use an alternate method of payment. I then took the bill to my bank, which told me that all they could do was take the bill out of circulation, which meant that we lost that $100 gift. Oh well.
One thing neither of us lost, however, was our life. No one handcuffed us or held us down to our pleas of “I can’t breathe.” Today, it’s hard not to imagine that same situation ending with either of us dead after being suffocated for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
Likewise, if a white man in Atlanta perhaps had too much to drink and fell asleep in a fast-food drive-through lane, would the white police officers trying to arrest that white man have used deadly force to stop him? It’s horrifying to me that black, brown, Asian and LGBTQ people are targeted for this type of behavior so often in this country. Something has to change. And yes, I understand why peaceful protests can and should be part of that solution.
Unfortunately, looting and setting fire to stores owned by people who literally had nothing to do with those situations should never be the target of those protests. But, they unfortunately too often are — as seen around the country once again in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, although, thankfully, most of the protests of Floyd’s death after those first few nights have been peaceful. Considering that the shooting of Brooks took place only a couple of days before this issue went to press and the Wendy’s where he was killed was looted and then burnt to the ground the following night, it remains to be seen if violent protests will continue to be an issue.
I have been encouraged, however, by local elected officials like Tampa Mayor Jane Castor (in blue in photo) and New Tampa’s City Council member Luis Viera who have been getting out in the community with the protesters, trying to make a difference.
Before the Rayshard Brooks situation, I wrote about the aftermath of the Floyd killing in our June 9 Wesley Chapel issue and I was very pleased at three emails/letters I received since then from black readers who appreciated my take on the current situation and offered words of advice and encouragement and something much more valuable to me than just the kind words: Two of the readers even offered to help start and/or get involved with a local grassroots movement that might help stem the tide of systemic racism and build better communication here.
I therefore am looking for people in New Tampa who also want to help. What can we do? I really don’t know. I just know I want to try. Black, white or otherwise, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do, too.