I am white.
I am male.
I am educated.
I am middle class.
I am financially secure.
I am retired with a pension and Social Security.
I have great medical insurance and Medicare.
I am happily married.
I have kids and grandchildren who are healthy and can pay their own bills.
I live in a nice home.
I live in a town that is a great place to live with lots of friendly people.
I don’t worry when I see a policeman.
I don’t have black, brown, red, or yellow skin, and do not instinctively fear that I will be hurt, killed, or arrested.
I don’t have concerns when in a store that someone is thinking I’m shoplifting.
I don’t worry that I have a job that is considered “essential” where I have to bag groceries, or work in a slaughterhouse, a nursing home, or as an EMT, where I risk exposure to the coronavirus.
I don’t worry about being able to pay the rent or utility bill or get medical help.
I don’t worry that I may have to choose between putting food on the table for my family or paying for a car repair so I can get to work.
I don’t worry that my neighborhood has drug dealing, or stray bullets that could hurt or kill my neighbors or me.
I don’t have to be concerned that the air I breathe or the water I drink is contaminated by industry or negligence.
Over the last few weeks, we began to experience some lifting of the restrictions that had been in place for the past three months. COVID-19 and the economic recession were just about all we were talking about.
Then, just when we were looking forward to easing up a bit, came another horrific killing of a black man, George Floyd, caught on camera for eight minutes and 46 seconds as his life was snuffed out. His death, as well as the many others at the hands of the police, is forcing us all to face the reality of systemic, and sometimes fatal, racism in our country.
It has all come to a head in the past weeks since Floyd’s killing, with protests in all 50 states and also around the world. The protests have been mostly peaceful, and despite no evidence, Trump and his enablers have been decrying “Antifa” as the instigators of the demonstrations. The calls for “law and order” put the role of police at the forefront.
Changing the idea that police are “warriors” as opposed to “guardians” is central to the movement to end systemic racism. Talk of de-funding or eliminating police departments is missing the point, though. We need to shift into reformation of policing practices, where the police more often help people than see them as criminals.
When people talk about changing the system, perhaps the best example is Camden, New Jersey. This city, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, had a murder rate 18 times the national average. In 2013, the city council fired all of its officers, and then rehired most them after each had to file a 50-page application and take psychological tests. These officers were put back on the streets, many walking their beats, with more face-to-face interaction with the people they were re-hired to serve and protect.
Officers were no longer rewarded for the number of arrests or tickets issued. The department, in just a few years, transformed their roles from warriors to guardians. Contrast that with the use of armored military equipment and body armor with “less lethal” weapons that we have seen in the past few weeks.
I have all the privilege I mentioned above. But I am not so sure that my white skin, gender, and age will always protect me. You can watch the video of the 75-year-old white man get knocked to the ground by two officers in Buffalo, New York. He lies bleeding from his ear as they walk past him.
So I march in support of my brothers and sisters of color who march to protest systemic racism that permeates much of our society.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this Opinion Column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any staff member, contribution writer or the Lyons Recorder.