I recently was listening to The Pledge of Allegiance.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
With liberty and justice for all.
I believe some are still a bit unclear about the definition of ”all”. Or maybe we’re confused about ”indivisible.” Or ”liberty”. Or ”justice”. All I know is that there seems to be great evidence that as a country we aren’t getting it right.
Yesterday I joined a group of other citizens of all colors, shapes, religions, sexual orientations, education levels, economic statuses, and ages to march through our town. In doing so, we said we stand together, in solidarity, to fight for a world where there is equality and justice for people regardless of their skin color.
Skip McCall, a local community leader in our city, spoke of a time not long ago when there were different water fountains for our black citizens and guests. When they couldn’t sit at the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s downtown. When the integrated black schools received ”new” school books that were discards from the white schools. It’s hard to fathom, but not so long ago.
We’re a bit prettier today. We are less obvious with our racism. But still, incidents like George Floyd’s death keep happening. Thankfully today some are being caught on video.
I always went to integrated schools. I always had black friends. Still I was oblivious to the differences of our circumstances. Most of them didn’t talk about it, and I didn’t know enough to ask.
My parents always taught us that when we were in trouble to go to a policeman. They would protect you. I never realized all my classmates possibly didn’t see things the same way.
College was a time of learning more about this, though. My dorm had the highest minority percentage on campus. I watched the news with my dormmates and we’d talk. And argue. Good and honest conversation. I heard their stories and learned. They heard mine, and also learned. But my naïveté gone, I knew then that at any opportunity, I would show up to support my black friends.
We’re in the year 2020 and race is still an issue. One of the ”privileges” of being white is people feel free to make racist comments around you. When someone does this, they are talking about my friends. Usually I speak up, but I am ashamed that sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I am simply speechless. Sometimes I feel the hate is so deep it can’t be reached.
How can ”good people” judge people on the color of their skin? But they do. I hear it. And no matter how many times I am told ”I didn’t mean it that way – you know I’m not racist” – it seldom rings true.
Have you watched the video? George Floyd dying for a counterfeit $20 bill? Many feel too sensitive to watch it. Granted, it’s horrible. But personally I want that image to stay burned in my brain. Here is a piece by the New York Times that shows it.
Yes, it could have happened to someone of any race and it would have still been deplorable, but the fact that it once again happened to a black man is significant. When you see it happening time after time, you know it is no accident but an acceptable practice.
While I love my black friends, their children, and grandchildren, I also support law enforcement. Those who are in law enforcement and examine themselves on a regular basis to make sure they are treating all humans with equal dignity and respect.
I know most are in their jobs because they believe in true justice for all, along with a measure of mercy. If not, they need to be identified and removed from their positions. But to the good ones, those who help our community, we know what a very hard job you do, for very little pay. Thank you.
How do we change things? I don’t totally know. I’d love to be able to say ”Well, personally I am not racist so it’s not my problem.” But I have friends and others in my community who live in fear simply because of the color of their skin, or the color of skin of their children or grandchildren. I don’t have the luxury of staying out of it.
I know marching does little. But promising I will pay better attention, and following through with that, will. I will watch and listen and do what I can to protect all of our people.
But there are so many other things we can do. We can pay attention to our education system. The smart young attorney Kaleigh Darty spoke about the irony that we fund our jail better than our schools. That we use our jails simply to punish, not to educate and rehabilitate. That so many smart minority people are making bad choices because even today their choices are limited.
We can provide an economic environment that is attractive for bringing jobs to our community.
We can improve the access to health care, and train our providers how to communicate with patients so that they are heard and that proper treatment is given. We can train others in our community to come alongside people and mentor them. We can try to cut through the layers of stigma so people will ask for help when needed and when they ask, we can get it for them regardless of their financial circumstances.
“I can’t breathe.”
That’s how many of our black citizens feel. Even before George Floyd. If you see someone that can’t breathe, what do you do? Too many stand and watch, helpless. Jump in there. Scream and yell and call for help. Become one who uses their life to resuscitate.
I’m proud of my community, but I know we have work to do. I’m in. How about you?