Watching the riots, with American cities being looted and buildings burning, has been very difficult for me to tolerate. How anyone involved thinks they are getting their message across is beyond me. Yet, how often have you heard someone say, “If only you could walk a mile in my shoes, you’d understand what I am faced with”?
Well, for me, I am not a member of a racial minority and I have no intention of pretending to be something I am not. But it does not mean I do not understand more than you might think. My children’s godparents were a wonderful black couple. Alice was a nurse who worked with Pam, and Jess owned a small trucking company. It was over 50 years ago when we invited them to our home for the first time. We were surprised, when after they accepted, they asked, “Is it OK for us to be in your neighborhood?” The question made us very much aware of the prejudicial challenges they had faced in the past. Later, when we extended additional invitations, we were glad they never had to ask that question again.
But, I also know firsthand what it is like to feel the sting of discrimination. As a member of a religious group which is a minority in our country, anti-Semitism is something I have known all too well. In a Signal column released on May 1, Josh Heath asked me to imagine I was born in 1900, and his request very much hit home. As it turns out, my great grandparents, (on my mother’s side of our family), immigrated to America from what is now Poland a short time before the turn of the 20th century, and my Grandmother immigrated right after 1900. By the time I was born in 1942, all of my relatives who had stayed behind in Europe were dead. Their demise was not something I had to imagine, but something which occurred as a result of a bigoted group of individuals in Nazi Germany. If anyone believes it is not something which has weighed heavily on me throughout my lifetime, or that religious discrimination has not continued in the United States, you are not thinking clearly. Even though I often consider how discriminatory practices might affect my family, I continue to choose to not be a victim. Fortunately, racial and religious discrimination has been declining over the years, and I expect the decline to continue in the future.
It is not that I am unaware of what happened in the past or who was responsible. But, the actions of Hitler and his Storm Troopers’ final solution, the refusal of the United States to accept Jews attempting to flee Nazi Germany in the ‘30s, the rise of the Nazi American Bund, and other ethnic cleansing going on in Europe left me asking this question: How could the local population have allowed it to happen? So, while I might show anger at those who were involved in supporting Nazi activities during the mid-twentieth century, I hold no animosity toward Germany’s current children and grandchildren, because they were not alive and not involved. I have always accepted the friendship of individuals, not based on color, religion, or national origin, but on “the content of their character.”
I hope you are starting to see the parallel of my story to slavery and racial discrimination in America. No living American has owned slaves. With the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln in 1863, a person would have to be over 150 years old to have been involved in such a hideous practice. I therefore also find it highly offensive when some individuals attempt to stir the pot by blaming all white people for slavery to have taken place. While at the same time, I believe we should call out individuals who discriminate based on race, religion, or national heritage, no matter what color they are.
From the first time I viewed the video of Minnesota Police Officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd’s neck, I was appalled – and my opinion has not changed. Officer Chauvin used excessive force and he should face the consequences. Then, almost right afterwards, I was pleased to hear that elected officials, as well as other police officers, police officials, and the public coming together wanted justice to be served. Reflecting on my own impression of the incident, I realized I had not conceptualized a white police officer and a black man; I saw an evil cop who had used excessive force and needlessly killed a man handcuffed while on the ground. I started thinking that maybe this time the country had arrived to a point where we would be able to go beyond race, and instead seek justice just because it was the right thing to do. I remember turning and saying to Pam, “I’m betting this is not the first, or the only, time this guy has used excessive force while making an arrest,” and Pam responded by saying “Yep, he looks like he is enjoying himself.”
But, then the media got hold of the story, and the topic of race was front and center. We heard from the normal cast of characters who intended to do nothing more but increase racial tensions and stir the pot. I expected demonstrations would occur. Mr. Floyd’s arrest ended as a tragedy and there are many questions yet to be answered. It turns out Officer Chauvin had 18 previous complaints. What are the details of each one, and if the complaints were serious, what was done about them? We have been told one complaint was submitted to Amy Klobuchar when she was the Hennepin County Attorney, but she made a decision not to pursue the case. Can anyone explain what happened? It has also been reported, on an internet site, both Floyd and Chauvin were working security at the same restaurant. If they knew each other, is it possible they had a conflict or disagreement which caused Chauvin to do what he did? Is the practice of an officer using his knee on a suspects neck an accepted Minneapolis Police department restraining technique? Will the method remain approved for future use or will it be outlawed? Did any of the other three officers on the scene do anything, in an effort, to have Chauvin release the tension on Floyd’s neck? As I said, there are a great many questions, and we will just have to wait for the trial to learn the answers.
At the same time, we have not been witnessing peaceful protests; we have been watching riots, people being hurt and killed, looting, and the destruction of public and private property. It is sad to see individuals losing their life savings and their dreams as people break windows and steal from stores. All while the police look on and do little to stop it. Yes, these are the guys and gals who wear the badges, carry the guns, and have the responsibly to “Protect and Serve” the public. Yet, when the going got tough, they stood still and did little to nothing to stop the carnage. Possibly, they were doing what they are told. So, I can only hope our Santa Clarita Sheriff’s department gets better direction and protects our community as they have always done in the past.
It also makes me very unhappy to see and hear individuals on the news using these riots as rationale to support their chosen cause. The media claims the rioters have the country’s attention, and I think they are right, but not in a good way. Mr. Floyd’s death is a tragedy, and it should have led us down a road of positive change and justice. But, I fear continued evenings of watching what anarchy looks like will eventually create a far more repressive response by the police, National Guard, and possibly the US Military.
My thoughts are, if you want to peacefully protest to get your message out, be very careful out there, because some are just looking to cause trouble, and if you happen to be in the wrong place when the trouble starts, you may end up suffering the consequences along with those who truly deserve it.