I am not speaking for every black person but I do hope to give you an idea about some of the things that are on our minds. While we all still try to deal with the impact of COVID-19, a virus that has disproportionately impacted communities of color, we are dealing with another case of police brutality. We should ALL be upset by what we saw and by what we continue to see. When I watch that video, I see more than just a man losing his life to police brutality. When I see George Floyd on the ground calling out “I can’t breathe”, I see my father. I see my uncles. I see my friends. I see myself. I can’t just file it away. It’s on my mind every time I get in my car. It’s on my mind every time I see a police car. That could be me. Now, I realize that the vast majority of police interactions don’t go this way. I’ve volunteered with the Chamblee Police Department for almost two years now. I personally know good police officers. I started to volunteer in part because I needed to see that. I’m a Black man in my mid-30’s and the only positive police officers I could think of were on television. I’m thankful for the work of police officers everywhere. They put their lives on the line for our safety every day and aren’t thanked nearly enough. It is for that reason though that I hold them to a higher standard. We expect the best from them so when see see images like this flash across our television screens, we lose faith. When we watch a murder take place without justice, we lose faith.
I am a Black man and I’m afraid. My heart hurts. I love the city of Atlanta and I love this country. It pains me to see it torn apart, damaged, and burning. Still, what pains me even more is to see men and women who look like me being attacked and their attackers going unpunished. I shudder at the thought that for every George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, there are countless other Black men and women who have lost their lives that many of us will never know about because there is no video. You can ask your Black friends and colleagues if they support the looting that has taken place and I assure you the vast majority of them would tell you no. I’m not here to defend, only to give some perspective. I would ask that you keep in mind that prior to any of the looting, there were hours and hours of peaceful protests. Within the last few years, we saw Colin Kaepernick lead a silent protest by taking a knee to shine light on the same injustices that I’m talking about. In his case, people got so caught up in the how, they didn’t look at the why. He was shunned by the NFL. Whether you like his method or not, I hope you can agree with the cause. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is often brought up with respect to the peaceful protests he lead. While they make for great stories now, some of the people using him as an example don’t references the dogs, fire hoses, and hate speech he encountered. There is history to peaceful protests turning violent, and not by the protesters. I ask that you keep in mind that people are hurt and angry and sometimes that anger can lead to this kind of behavior. When you’re hurt and angry and met with force, you may not react in ways that you normally would. Personally, I would not want to be judged solely off of the things I say and do when I’m hurt. If you’re going to judge a whole crowd of peaceful protesters based on the actions of a few, I’d question if you would also judget the entire community of police officers based on the bad actions of a few.
As far as where we go from here, nobody has all the answers. If you had asked me Friday how I felt, I don’t know that I’d have been able to put it in words. It has taken me time to gather myself to write this and I’m sure by the time you read it, I’ve thought of more things that I could say. Maybe you want to show your support but you don’t know what to say. I’ll just share this. A dear coworker of mine kept it simple. All she said was, “how are you?”. I didn’t have much to say at the time beside that I’m trying to deal with everything but it meant the world that she thought to say it. I’ve had friends send messages of support and that means so much. If you don’t know what to say, just know that it’s ok. Just asking the question and showing you care might be enough.
In closing, this is a problem that affects all of us. It’s not just a problem for black people. There were brave non-Black people who fought and continue to fight for equal rights for African-Americans. There were men in support of Women’s rights. There are straight and cisgender allies in the fight for LGBTQ rights. At the end of the day, if you want to show your support, show your support!
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.