Don’t Give Up: My response to the murder of George Floyd and following protests and riots.
This isn’t for everyone.
These words aren’t perfect. My emotions are still a mess, and my thoughts still aren’t clear. I won’t get this right.
Like most of you and people all across America and around the world, I’m overwhelmed by what is unfolding right now.
I’m angry after watching the video of an unarmed man killed by a sworn police officer while in handcuffs. With his face smashed into the asphalt, crying and bleeding, in the streets of Minneapolis. While other police officers aided him slowly take his life with his hands in his pockets. While onlookers pleaded for mercy on his behalf, afraid for their own safety if they stepped in to salvage what was left of him.
I’m equally frustrated at the long list of other brutal and senseless murders at the hands of police officers sworn to protect and serve.
Now I’m watching cities and communities all across the country in a state of unrest due to rioting and looting. I’m perplexed because of the violence and anger.
I see people earnestly trying to make sense of it and trying to understand. While others are inciting and instigating and antagonizing.
I’m hearing cries and pleas of hope, vulnerability, insight, and concern at the risk of being drowned out by screams of hatred, harm, bigotry, and resistance.
I’ve tried to digest an honest, open, and balanced media variety over the past week. Shifting between news networks, social media platforms, articles, and many of your posts and videos.
Frankly, I’m torn in trying to make sense of all of this. There’s what I learned from my own experiences. There’s what I understand from watching, listening, and engaging with others. Finally, there’s some stuff that I will never fully comprehend…things I’ll just never know.
My experiences may vary significantly from yours. Then again, maybe not. I grew up up in a mid-size, mid-western, middle of the city neighborhood. Including being a bi-racial kid in a poor family in a Christian home. Even though I grew up in the middle of poverty, racism, bullying, and a host of other crazy variables, I had an amazing childhood and even better adult maturation period. I knew things were bad around me, but I knew things could always get better.
What’s crazy is I saw things get better as I worked more, read more, shared more, and loved more.
I can’t apologize for who I am. I can’t apologize for who I love and who loves me. I can’t apologize for my family, and I can’t apologize for those I choose as my friends. I can’t apologize for those that choose to associate with me, and I can’t apologize for those that misunderstand me. I can’t and I won’t apologize as I don’t expect you to.
I can only take responsibility for my actions and my words.
I don’t expect my friends to apologize for their skin color or the trespasses of their parents and ancestors. My friends are not compelled to explain themselves or defend themselves. Being my friend comes with an inherent benefit of love, assumption of morality, and expectation of universal acceptance and respect for myself, my family, and others. What is understood doesn’t need to be explained.
Despite all of my failures, I try to surround myself with good people. I try to be an equally good person to those that I’m lucky enough to embrace me.
People Are Hurting.
As I try to process all that is going on, I continue to come up with a loss of words that can solve this. I feel like a failure because I can’t make sense of this.
People are hurting.
People are angry.
People are confused.
People are scared.
People are stupid.
People are indifferent.
People are helping.
People are, unfortunately, dead.
Racism and race issues did not start this week with George Floyd. It didn’t start with Trayvon Martin, Rodney King, Dr. King, and Rosa Parks. It didn’t start with slavery in America. Racism has been around since mankind. I know there are many narratives out there, and it’s hard to know what to trust and believe. It can be truly overwhelming.
It’s hard to know what to say, how to respond, what questions to ask. If you don’t say anything, you’re wrong. If you do say something, you’re wrong. If you try to understand, you’re told you never will. If you try to say you don’t understand, you’re told to try walking in someone else’s shoes. I get it. It’s crazy.
At this point in my life, I believe my response has to consistently be the following:
- Celebrate the good in people and admonish the ugly.
- Be kind to people and help where I can.
- Listen to people. Seek to understand. Stop trying to prove I’m right.
- Accept people’s mistakes and generously forgive them.
- Expose my ego to vulnerability, embrace my failures, and seek improvement.
- Surround myself with intelligent, motivated, supportive, and caring people.
- Engage in meaningful dialogue and diverse experiences.
- Seek and study opposing viewpoints. Diversify my intellectual consumption.
- Resist sensationalism, shock, outrage, and instigation.
- Encourage, nurture, and support good leadership.
- Trust people and assume positive intent.
- Keep trying, keep working, keep learning, and keep caring.
I’ve left a lot of stuff unsaid. Somewhat intentionally. As I said before, I don’t have all of the words. This is so complex.
My biggest message to you is don’t give up. Don’t stop trying. Don’t discount all of the progress and work.
I hope these words are helpful and not harmful.