I didn’t sleep all that much last night. A lot of people didn’t sleep well last night. I have been debating on making a post. What would be the purpose? Who am I to comment? But after speaking with my wife and also seeing multiple posts that state “Silence makes you complicit”. I have to vocalize my thoughts.
First, I want to preface this by saying that I have only occasionally made my voice heard on comments my friends make. I rarely go political and post things as a “top level” post. Always hiding in the comments. I have been in plenty of positions that have me in front of people but rarely have I made my views known. Was I scared? Was I worried of what people would say or think? Yes. I have this trait that wants everyone to like me. I’ve stayed neutral for the most part.
Some of the language in this post may offend some. I’m not sorry. It is reality. So with that being said. Here goes.
I was first called nigger at age 12. Indirectly. I was at Starlite Skate Center in Ormond Beach, Florida with my group of friends. Myself and one other friend were the only black kids in our group. I was sitting at a table with my friend Carol, and a kid around our age skated up to us. He looked Carol square in the eyes and said “Excuse me, but can you tell me why you’re a nigger lover?” I didn’t know how to react. I felt hurt. Enraged. Angry. Tears were streaming down my face as I skated in his direction. It took most of my friends to stop me from walking right in to a trap, for that kid had skated over to what I would imagine was his older brother and his friends who were all roughly 16-18 years old. They were waiting for me.
I remember when the L.A. Riots happened in ’92. Watching the footage of Rodney King being beaten by police… it chilled me to the bone. But I lived in a suburb. Surely nothing like that would happen to me. At that age, I was completely naive to the fact that it can happen anywhere.
At age 14, I walked with my best friend Darren around Radio Shack in Palm Coast. At the time, it was a mom and pop run shop. We needed equipment for the church. The two owners followed me around the store but not Darren. They were making sure that I wasn’t stealing. Darren? He was fine. It was okay for him to walk around. But I was immediately the suspect of a crime that was not even committed.
These stories carry on throughout the years, into my adult life. As a former business owner, there were many times that I would walk into other businesses to introduce myself as a fellow business owner where I was asked to leave because “whatever it is you’re doing, we don’t want none”. I chalked that up to ignorance and shined on to the next one and made some great friends and contacts. But those moments always stuck with me.
Flash forward to present day. I don’t live in a city. I live in the sticks. I live in an area where I still get cross looks from people when I go into a store because of the color of my skin. I still get the occasional “Oh yeah, you’re one of “the good ones” as if that is some form of compliment.
We live in a country where police are called on for black people doing mundane things like having a barbecue. Police are called on us for shopping at CVS, or for waiting on someone to arrive at Starbucks, exercising in the gym for the building that they rent a suite at, for a child selling water as a fundraiser, staying at an AirBNB… and even simply being a police officer. Thanks to the power of viral videos, as Will Smith recently stated, “Racism isn’t getting worse. It’s getting filmed.”
So why wasn’t I able to sleep really last night? George Floyd, the riots, and the subsequent reaction. America is on very shaky ground. And a big part of it is due to lack of leadership. From the top down.
Let’s talk protests and looting. Colin Kaepernick had led the charge by taking a knee during the NFL games to protest police brutality, and conservatives lost their collective minds. “He’s being disrespectful of the national anthem!” “This was NOT the way to protest!” “Shut up and do your job and play the game!” “It’s not that bad! Must be nice to protest and be a millionaire!” I’ve heard them all. And they were backed by the commander in chief of this country. “Get that Son of a Bitch out of there!” and the Crowd. Goes. Wild.
George Floyd is murdered in broad daylight, filmed. “I Can’t Breathe” is repeated over and over again while the former police officer had his knee on this man’s neck. Until he lay dead in the street. And the protests are still going on as I type this. No more taking a knee. Peaceful protests have turned non peaceful in some places. Rioting and looting. While people hold signs that say “Black Lives Matter”, only to be met with ALL LIVES MATTER.
Before I continue. I have to speak on this. All lives do matter. While this sentiment is true. There have been many recent analogies made that explain this better than I could ever. One example from the singer Billie Eillish that I have to say explains it VERY well: “If your friend gets a cut on their arm are you gonna wait to give all your friends a band-aid first because all arms matter? No you’re gonna help your friend because they are in pain because they are in need because they are bleeding!” the teen wrote. “If someone’s house was on fire and someone is stuck in the house, are you gonna make the fire department go to every other house on the block first because all houses matter? No! Because they don’t fucking need it.”
I was awake most of the night watching live streams of the riots going on. Most of them started peaceful. There is unrest. People want their voices heard. Too long have we dealt with being told that no matter how we try to voice the very real grievances that exist for minorities, that we are “voicing it wrong”. We can’t take a knee. We can’t walk. We can’t speak softly. We can’t speak loudly. “Why do you need your own things, like award shows or organizations? Why not be patient? It will get better.”
Why do we have to wait? Why do we have to be patient for the racists to be drowned out? Why do we have to take a step back and wait for the majority to decide that “Ok. NOW you can be equals in our eyes”. If Muslims said the same to Christians, it would be completely NOT okay. Here is the thing. No one wants to be marginalized. No one wants to be told that they are lesser important. No one wants injustice put against the group that they identify with. Whether it be Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Female, Disabled… no one wants to feel that way.
I watched as people were pushed to the brink last night. I watched as people were sitting on their front porches, riot gear clad officers marching down the streets of their completely quiet neighborhoods, screaming for people to “Get in your fucking homes”. For the police to FIRE upon the people filming, shouting “Lite em UP” to accompany the rubber bullet that then flew in their directions, is completely uncalled for.
I also watched as other sheriffs, like the one from Flint, Michigan, took a knee and then marched WITH the protesters.
There is hope. But I unequivocally can NOT stand by any longer, while the current President is defended by so many, when he says stuff like: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”. This is the person that just invited his followers (you know.. the ones that like to cosplay Call of Duty with real AR’s) down to the Whitehouse for “MAGA Night”… you know.. the same night protesters are going to go down there. This is the same person that calls white supremacists “good people”. Same person that called Kapernick and others that took a knee “sons of bitches” and called for them to get the hell out of there. The same person that praised the AR carrying cosplayers in the Capital building yelling… absolutely SCREAMING in the face of the police “Good people just trying to negotiate a *better deal*”. The same person that called people protesting the death of another black man at the hands of the cops “THUGS”.
We are told not to take a knee. We are told not to march. We are told not to yell. We are told to wait it out because “it’ll get better”. We are told… we are told… we are told.
As I’ve said on another post. Do I think looting is ok? No. But I understand it. Civil unrest is growing. George Floyd is another in a long line of black people that were killed, and only because it was caught on film, something is being done about it. The nurse that had her home broken into by plain clothes cops that killed her, was not filmed… you do not really hear about it. But it happened. And riots are breaking out everywhere (Atlanta, New York, Etc) because it’s a shared existence. I live in Oregon far away from the hot beds of what’s going on in the inner cities… and I still have to be concerned with wondering if my presence will be questioned for simply jogging in my own neighborhood. I still get followed around by store workers ‘just because’. The stories… countless stories of interactions… creates this environment.
So what can be done? An end to Police Brutality is definitely a start. But it’s deeper than that. The notion that Black, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern… ok, anyone not Caucasian… are constantly wanting equality and being told in response that “Oh come on, it’s not that bad”… is a problem. Take someone that has been a prisoner of war for decades. Beat. Treated as a lesser human. Made to work in labor camps. Made fun of. Etc etc. And they’re finally released. They will not trust anyone. Especially people that look like their former oppressors. When there are people that want to reach out an help, the former POW will be leery… withdrawn, and may even act out violently because of years of abuse and mistreatment.
So for the ethnic communities… WE have the responsibility of carefully allowing the notion that there are people out there that actually do care. Do share solidarity. DO want to see and affect change. For decades we have been told “Just be patient… it’ll get better”. Honestly… I ask that if you *actually* want to see change and see things get better… so we can move forward together… patience is needed on both sides as well. Understand the wrong that has been done… and is STILL being done to minorities. Be patient as that trust is regained.
Right now… it is hard to trust. When Auhmad Aubrey’s killers had a 2 month period where nothing was done and action was only taken when video surfaced, that’s a problem. When George Floyd ended up dead because of a possible counterfeit $20 and yet someone like Dylan Roof… who killed a bunch of black people, was arrested peacefully… that’s a problem. Trust is not high on the list. When the system, by default, works against you…
That is a problem.
Black Lives Matter. Our lives are at risk. It is undeniable. And for those that stand with us, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Change is needed. And before you say “Well… all lives matter”. Please take a moment and scroll to the top of this post, and start over again. Please.